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Second main BART union approves new contract

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Bay Area Rapid Transit workers' largest union ratified its contract with the agency on Monday, closing eight months of negotiations that resulted in two strikes that snarled traffic throughout the region and during which two workers were fatally struck by a train.

Service Employees International Union spokeswoman Cecille Isidro said in a statement on Monday that 87 percent of SEIU members voted to approve the four-year contract, which will include employee raises and measures to improve safety.

The measures include increased lighting in tunnels and stations, committees to begin the process of reopening station bathrooms, and an electronic tracking system to flag unresolved safety hazards.

“In California we believe in workers having a voice in the workplace in order to improve working conditions and services to the public,” said Pete Castelli, executive director of SEIU 1021. “This is particularly important at BART and other transportation agencies, where workers have lost their lives on the job, face incredibly dangerous working conditions on a daily basis, and need a voice to make the system safer for the thousands of riders they serve each day.”

The union's contract ratification follows a deal approved by workers in November but voted down by BART's board of directors after a dispute over paid medical leave.

The new contract drops the medical leave provision, which would have provided up to six weeks of paid family medical leave and would have cost BART up to $44 million if one-third of the agency's workers took advantage of the provision over the course of the contract.

BART had said the provision was included by mistake.

Earlier this month, members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 voted to approve the same contract.

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