In the end, BART negotiators caved, agreeing to pay an enormous price for the benefit contribution and work rule changes they wanted from employees.
So far, district officials have remained mum. But numbers we've obtained show that they significantly sweetened the deal at the last moment to settle the four-day-old strike. Employees, already among the best-compensated transit workers in the nation, will receive a stunning 16.4 percent raise over the next four years.
In exchange, they will finally start making contributions to their pensions, ratcheting up to 4 percent of their salaries by the end of the contract. That's still well below what most public employees in California contribute.
They will maintain an amazing health care deal that currently allows employees to obtain health insurance for $92 a month no matter how many dependents. The cost will apparently increase by $37 a month, still a tremendous bargain.
BART managers and directors will probably argue that the deal -- which nets out to nearly a 13 percent raise after tax consequences are considered -- was worth the work rule changes the district badly wanted and needed.
"This offer is more than we wanted to pay," General Manager Grace Crunican said Monday night when announcing the agreement without providing details. "But it is also a new path in terms of our partnership with our workers, and helps us to deliver the BART service for the future. We compromised to get to this place, as did our union members."
From where we sit, BART did most of the compromising. Indeed, while details of the rule changes are still fuzzy, it appears district leaders only got part of what they sought.
Left alone, BART officials might have had more backbone. But, the pressure was enormous. Local politicians shilled for the unions, pushing the district to give more with little or no regard for the cost.
State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward, was the worst. Other shameless meddlers included Assembly members Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, and Bill Quirk, D-Hayward. Then there were Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who can't manage her own city's finances, and her deputy, former Assemblyman Sandré Swanson.
To be sure, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, were regarded as helpful, honest brokers. But in the end, it would have been better if everyone had kept their noses out.
Ultimately, however, BART directors will be accountable for the deal. When they next raise fares and seek tax increases, they will first need to explain why they gave away the store.