The Associated Press
OAKLAND — BART officials sent a letter Monday to Gov. Gray Davis asking for a 60-day cooling-off period for one of its unions that had threatened to strike.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3993 said last week it would strike if Bay Area Rapid Transit officials did not come up with a “meaningful” proposal.
The local is the smallest of the three BART unions and the only one not bound by the cooling-off period that expires at midnight Sept. 3.
“We believe this is the best course of action to take at this time to remove any uncertainty for our riders, the public, and our employees, as well as, to remove the continual distractions being caused to the bargaining process by AFSCME’s threats,” said Willie B. Kennedy, BART’s board president.
While wages and benefits separate BART from its two largest unions, the dispute with AFSCME is over which BART jobs are covered by the union.
AFSCME president Norma del Mercado said the announcement came as a surprise.
“It seems ludicrous they would ask for a cooling off period now when they had a chance to do it weeks ago,” del Mercado said.
“We were waiting for a meaningful proposal and instead we were hit with a letter they had sent to the governor.”
Del Mercado said the union and BART officials continued their negotiations Monday.
Whether or not the union strikes will depend on the result of the talks and Davis’ response to BART’s request.
Davis’ office has received the letter and will set up a fact-finding panel, said spokeswoman Susan Gard.
The unions’ contracts expired June 30. Employees have worked without a contract since then.
BART’s two biggest unions – Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 790, which represent about 2,500 train operators, station agents, maintenance, professional and clerical workers – are already banned from striking during the cooling-off period.