Following months of vicious negotiations and a crippling transit strike, BART workers on Friday turned out to vote on their hard fought contract with BART management.
And in a lopsided vote, both of BART's unions ratified the four year deal.
Union SEIU 1021 announced its 88-percent approval Friday night. ATU Local 1555 announced it got 85-percent approval Saturday morning.
BART board of directors are scheduled to vote on the new contract at a meeting later this month, where it is expected to approve the deal.
The unions' strikes stemmed from an ongoing labor dispute that required federal mediators to step in to negotiate terms about wages, benefits and safety and work conditions.
BART issued the following statement following the unions announcements:
BART’s four year labor contract agreements, approved by its two largest unions, lay the groundwork for continued reliable service for years to come. The contracts address the growing cost of employee benefits, allow the use of modern technology to streamline operations while eliminate waste, and ensure financial sustainability to allow BART to reinvest in its 41 year old system.
Workers turned out all day Friday at the Oakland Mariott Hotel to mark a simple yes or no on the ballot.
“I’m relieved,” said worker Ricky Rideout as he entered the room to fill out his ballot. “Finally happy we came to a proposal that we are able accept.”
The new contract will give workers a 12.5 percent raise over four years, and add about $37 dollars in workers’ monthly healthcare contributions.
“Some members feel we should’ve got more,” said Arantes prior to the vote. “On average people feel this a fair contract and we’re getting the feeling it’s going to be a yes vote.”
Arantes reiterated the oft-repeated union line, that workers regretted the strike but felt they were forced to it by BART management. “I’m very sorry for the public, my apologies for the strike,” said Arantes, “but it’s something we had to do and it’s an important right that workers have to protect themselves.”
While workers voted in Oakland, a group of about 20 angry BART riders gathered at the Pleasant Hill BART station to call for an end to transit strikes in the state.
The group was led Orinda Councilman and Assembly Candidate Steve Glazer, who gathered 20,000 signatures calling on the state legislature to ban transit workers from striking.
The group marched behind a banner reading “Ban Bart Strikes” to the office of State Senator Mark De Saunlier, who heads California’s powerful transit committee.
“A strike is too impactful on people, commuters, riders and our economy,” said Glazer. “We need our state legislators to step up and support on transit strikes.”
Bart rider Susie Huang who turned out for the march, said during the strike, she noticed far fewer students on the campus of U.C. Berkeley where she takes classes.“They have no way to come to class,” said Huang.
Workers at other transit agencies like San Francisco’s Muni, are forbidden to strike by local ordinances.
But former San Francisco Mayor, and current California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom said banning strikes was not a silver bullet. “When I was mayor we had some contentious with our muni workers,” said Newsom, “but that didn’t stop them, even though they can’t legally strike, from in some cases all being miraculously sick.”
Arantes said banning strikes would have a chilling effect on workers’ rights. “If you were to ban the right to strike then you’re going to get to the point where you have an oppressive employer,” said Arantes, “you start getting unhappy workers, and safety starts getting down.”
Arantes said the union hoped to work in advance to lay the groundwork for a better relationship with BART, and avoid another vicious contract battle in four more years.