The BART public transit system shut down in San Francisco early Monday as workers from two of its largest unions went on strike after 11th-hour negotiations failed to produce a new contract.
BART, or Bay Area Rapid Transit, includes 44 stations throughout four counties, and serves nearly 400,000 passengers on the average weekday, according to ridership data compiled by the city.
The unions, which represent some 2,400 employees, and BART management personnel had until midnight Sunday to negotiate new contract terms regarding salary, healthcare, pensions, and safety.
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Union workers have reportedly requested a 21 percent pay increase, according to BART representative Rice, who said the transit agency has gone from offering 4 percent over four years to 8 percent over four years.
But the talks broke down Sunday night after both sides accused the other of throwing in the towel.
"The public doesn't deserve to be punished," BART spokesman Rick Rice told CNN.
"We are sorry they have decided to strike despite the fact we are willing to negotiate. The district is prepared to return to talks and get this finished."
"A strike is always the last resort, and we have done everything in our power to avoid it. Unfortunately, BART seems intent on forcing a strike," Josie Mooney, spokeswoman for SEIU Local 1021, said in a statement. "We are disappointed that BART's failure to bargain honestly and fairly means that hundreds of thousands of Bay Area commuters have to suffer."
San Francisco braced itself for the mess of a Monday morning commute by warning residents to find alternate means of transportation or plan to work from home if at all possible.
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The city will also offer some additional transportation options, Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement, including at the airport, and will dispatch more staff members to manage the increased traffic flow.
The last BART strike in 1997 lasted six days.
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