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AFSCME rejects BART's 'best, final' offer

Just when it looked as though San Francisco-area rail passengers might have made it through union negotiations without a strike, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) members threw them a curve Oct. 15, rejecting Bay Area Rapid Transit’s "best and final" offer by a vote of 130-43.

BART management offered AFSCME the same package that 2,500 members of its largest unions, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 790, accepted in late September. The contract would have provided a 22 percent pay raise (6 percent the first year; 5 percent, second and third years; and 6 percent, fourth year), maintenance of all benefits with no employee cost increases, and an additional 3.5 percent of wages increase in BART’s contribution to the employee’s pension fund.

"The union leadership is not being straightforward with its members," said BART General Manager Thomas Margro in a prepared statement. "Their leadership is demanding 37 percent pay increases and there is simply no justification, nor money, for that type of pay hike."

Margro added that AFSCME claims of low job security were false, pointing to 239 AFSCME positions in fiscal-year 1997 and 274 current positions. Additional positions are planned to be offered when BART opens service to San Francisco International Airport.

AFSCME members currently earn an average of $77,500 annually, said Margro, adding that the union’s demand for BART to raise salaries an average of 37 percent is "simply out of the stratosphere."

"AFSCME is forgetting that we all depend on our riders," he said. "They have to be able to afford to ride our transit system."

The union advised it would provide a seven-day notification prior to striking.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/17/2001