After a very difficult year, everyone close to BART was hoping for a new beginning with the election of a new president at the board meeting Thursday. That new president is in, but the acrimony continues.
"He basically called a war on employees and unions," said AFSCME Local 3993 President Patricia Schuchardt. "And I believe that BART unions are just the beginning, it's Wisconsin all over again."
Within minutes of being elected president of the BART Board of Directors, Joel Keller fired his first shot at the unions -- a plan to pursue a ballot measure banning public transit strikes.
"When I got here almost 19 years ago, if somebody had put this before this board, I would've said not no, but hell no," said BART Board President Joel Keller. "But after 19 years, I've come to the conclusion that our riders deserve better than what has happened in the last 6 months."
Union leaders say they felt betrayed by a man they used to consider a friend of organized labor.
"I think this is a political move," said ATU Local 1555 negotiator Chris Finn. "I think the attention's on BART right now for all the mistakes they've made during these negotiations. The mistakes and all the willful things they've done."
"I understand this is a shock to the union leadership and I expect that they will do everything they said they would do, including trying to find someone to run against me," Keller said.
Keller's comments came as negotiators for BART and its two largest unions were at the table a building away, trying to find a compromise on a disputed paid family leave provision that BART claims was a mistake.
Four days of meetings between union and BART negotiators have yet to produce a compromise. They'll be back at the negotiating table Friday morning.