OAKLAND -- No news may be good news for BART commuters.
Ten days after the elected BART board asked its two biggest unions to resubmit to their members a revised contract without a disputed family leave provision, the labor groups say they are still exploring their options.
There is little or no talk yet of launching a third strike that would again dump tens of thousands of train riders onto already jammed freeways or overloaded buses.
But if reports of pending litigation are accurate, a legal challenge appears to be the unions' first step. The Amalgamated Transit and Service Employees International unions could also amend the unresolved unfair labor practices lawsuit they filed in Alameda County in June.
"A number of people have told me the unions are prepared to file a lawsuit Tuesday," BART board Vice President Joel Keller of Antioch said. "I haven't seen it, so we'll have to wait and see what it says."
SEIU Local 1021 spokeswoman Cecille Isidro said no final decision has been made.
"There is still a lot of discussion back and forth between the unions and their lawyers," Isidro said. "We hope to be able to make a statement soon."
While outsiders aren't privy to the unions' strategy sessions, internal politics is almost certainly playing a role in the timing and tone of the debate.
ATU Local 1555 President and station agent Antonette Bryant is reportedly fighting several challengers in the union's leadership election on Wednesday.
Bryant is considered more moderate than her most visible opponent, train operator and ATU Local 1555 Recording Secretary Chris Finn, according to Keller. Neither could be reached by deadline Monday.
"Our negotiations with the unions will be hard enough if Antonette is re-elected," Keller said. "They will be even harder if one of the challengers who believes the members deserve the paid family leave wins. In any case, I don't expect to see any serious movement in this dispute until ATU settles its election."
The BART board on Nov. 21 authorized its general manager to sign contracts with the two unions if they ratify a new deal sans the costly family leave provision the transit agency says was inadvertently included.
BART estimates that providing up to six weeks of fully paid leave for workers to care for sick family members would cost $5 million -- or much more -- over the life of the contract depending on how many took it.
The union members have already ratified a contract with the disputed leave clause. They reject management's characterization of the provision as a "mistake" and have refused to resubmit the package to their members.
In the meantime, the 2,000 workers in ATU and SEIU continue to run the trains under the terms of the old contract and cannot collect the promised raises in the new agreement.
In other BART labor news, members of American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME Local 3993, will vote Wednesday on a four-year labor contract.
This 215-member union's deal includes raises comparable to what BART offered the two bigger labor groups but not the disputed family leave clause.
In addition, AFSCME secured a standardized salary schedule, and BART agreed to gradually move underpaid workers' salaries into the new ranges.
Contact Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773. Follow her at Twitter.com/lvorderbrueggen.