The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Breaking News

July 3, 2013

Talks resume to end strike that stymied commute

SAN FRANCISCO — As San Francisco Bay Area commuters crammed onto ferries and sat in rush hour traffic, rail workers and transit officials resumed contract talks Tuesday to end a two-day strike that has caused chaotic commutes and, according to businesses, is costing the region millions of dollars.

Political pressure is mounting for a settlement. In a letter, the state controller, lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner urged both sides to return to the bargaining table.

Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, said the state was sending two of its top mediators — the chair of the Public Employment Relations Board and the chief of the State Mediation and Conciliation Service — to facilitate further talks.

Negotiations were scheduled to start at 6 p.m. between the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency and the two largest unions representing train workers. Calls seeking comment from the agency and unions were not immediately returned.

The letter from the Democratic state officials said the strike has caused "widespread personal hardship and severe economic disruption," and it noted they were disappointed "about the lack of productive proposals and counterproposals in the days leading up to the strike."

The Bay Area Council, a business-sponsored public policy advocacy organization, estimated the strike was costing the region $73 million a day in diminished productivity by workers delayed in traffic or forced into longer commutes using other forms of transit.

The figure was based on state and regional data, anecdotal evidence of commute times, and assumptions about how many people telecommute, said Rufus Jeffris, a spokesman for the group.

Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto, countered that the disruption might be annoying but the impact is minimal on the $600 billion a year regional economy.

"There are no permanent losses," he said. "People work from home, people work harder later the next day or make it up later. The money not being spent in San Francisco remains in the pockets of people who can spend it at home."

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