Bay Area transportation officials are urging BART riders to plan alternative methods of getting to and from work in the event of a strike by the system's employees.
A strike became a distinct possibility Tuesday with one union voting in favor of authorizing a strike if necessary and another was scheduled to conclude voting Tuesday night.
Ninety-one percent of BART workers with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3993, which represents about 200 middle managers, voted in a secret ballot in favor of authorizing their union leaders to call for a strike if both sides do not come to an agreement at the conclusion of negotiation discussions at the end of this month.
Local 3993 president Jean Hamilton Tuesday said the vote is standard procedure as union leaders and BART management move forward in the negotiation process.
"This vote does not mean that we will automatically go on strike," Hamilton said. "It just indicates that membership is solidly behind union leaders."
AFSCME, along with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 960 station agents, train operators and foreworkers, and Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents 1,200 mechanics, custodians, safety inspectors and clerical employees, comprise the three largest of BART's five unions.
Leaders for all three said more time is likely necessary to reach a new labor agreement and accused the transit agency's executives of asking riders and employees to suffer the consequences of their financial mismanagement.
According to Hamilton, BART executives are conveying that the only way to close their budget gap is to raise fares and take away job and retirement security from employees.
BART spokesman Linton Johnson said BART unions have yet to agree to a single major cost-saving proposal designed to help close the agency's $250 million deficit over the next four years.
"As of yesterday (Monday) afternoon they have not responded to any of our proposals. They've asked for more clarification and we gave them everything they've asked for," Johnson said.