Get ready to redefine your idea of commute hell.

This morning, BART workers announced the results of last night's vote on whether to strike pending the expiration of their contract on Sunday. The votes are in, and they have officially authorized a strike that could go into effect as early as Monday morning. AC Transit, which expressed downright terror at the prospect of taking up the extra transit slack, has also voted to authorize their own strike. All in all, it sounds like a complete transportation meltdown could be headed our way.

The unions that took part in last night's vote represent BART's train operators, station agents, mechanics and maintenance workers. They are protesting against BART's efforts to make workers contribute to their pensions and pay more for their monthly health insurance (which is currently a flat $92/month no matter the numbers of people on the plan). Another change that BART is seeking to implement would not allow workers to be paid overtime for a day they work to make up for a sick day.

The unions contend that five years without raises is unacceptable and BART is hiding a $125 million operating surplus. They've proposed 5 percent annual raise over the next three years with an annual cost of living adjustment, and BART has countered with a 1 percent raise each year of a four-year agreement.

A strike would snarl traffic and strand thousands of Bay Area commuters. Currently, AC Transit serves 230,000 riders daily and BART serves more than 400,000. But the authorization may just be a bargaining tactic, as it was with the last three BART contract negotiations in 2009, 2005 and 2001. In all three cases, a strike was authorized but negotiations continued without a strike.

The last BART strike was in September 1997, and lasted six harrowing days. Previous strike threats have arisen in the last two contract negotiations in 2005 and 2009, and in both cases the strikes were averted at the last minute.

[SF Gate]

Previously: Possible BART Strike Looms This Week or Next