OAKLAND -- BART's largest union approved a labor contract Monday, effectively ending eight months of turbulent negotiations that prompted two four-day strikes and unending frustration for thousands of Bay Area commuters.

Eighty-seven percent of SEIU 1021 members voted in support of the four-year contract, which includes a series of "reasonable raises" and calls for safety and reliability measures. These measures include increased lighting in stations and tunnels, committees to begin reopening station bathrooms to help improve station cleanliness and an electronic tracking system to flag unresolved safety issues filed by workers.

Workers walk the picket line at the Lake Merritt BART station in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)
Workers walk the picket line at the Lake Merritt BART station in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 21, 2013. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

"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, in a statement. "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 ratification comes as SB 423, a proposed bill designed to eliminate California transit workers' right to strike, lost traction in the state Senate on Monday. Union leaders believe the legislation would have "unduly punished workers who prefer to negotiate contracts with their employers through compromise and discussion at the bargaining table" and kill employers' incentive to bargain in good faith.

The BART Board of Directors had rejected an earlier version of the contract after staff discovered an expensive family leave provision, which the agency estimated could have cost tens of millions of dollars, depending on how many people used it.

As written, workers would have been paid full wages for up to six weeks for eligible family emergencies, in addition to vacation and sick leave.

Labor leaders disputed BART's position and filed an unfair labor practices lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court. With the help of a federal mediator, BART and its unions resumed talks in mid-December and settled just before Christmas.

BART's board ratified the labor deal at its Jan. 2 meeting. Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 endorsed the contract Jan. 3.

Staff writer Lisa Vorderbrueggen contributed to this report. Contact Erin Ivie at eivie@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/erin_ivie.