The San Francisco Bay Area's train workers went on strike Friday and trains are shut down, setting the stage for the second Bay Area commute nightmare in three months.
The strike shutters the nation's fifth-largest rail system, known as BART, after a four-and-a-half-day walkout in July.
Just after midnight, union leaders picked up signs and said they would not go back to work until they reach an agreement with management, stranding the 200,000 people who ride BART roundtrip each day. Although workers had threatened strikes five times in the past week, they said they had finally reached their breaking point on Thursday night.
By late Thursday afternoon, talks had ended altogether and it was not clear when they would resume. A wild round of back-and-forth afternoon news conferences brought to a live TV audience an outpouring of emotion from sleep-deprived negotiators, and even the nation's top mediator had given up.
Federal mediator George Cohen — who had been praised for nudging each side closer since joining the talks on Sunday — remarkably took to the podium to declare there was “nothing further we were able to do.”
“Unfortunately, regrettably, we were not able to bring them the result we all want to achieve: a voluntary collective bargaining agreement,” Cohen said. “Our mediation process has come to an end.” The final bargaining session lasted an epic 30 hours.
Both sides were inching closer on the main economic issues that had separated them for more than six months but were still about 4 percent apart on total wage increases. And unions said they were fed up after management tried to impose new work rules to limit overtime and other costs.
Staff writers Matthias Gafni, Gary Peterson and Doug Oakley contributed to this report. Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705. Follow him at @RosenbergMerc.