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Bay Area transit strike deja vu: Now bus drivers threaten walkout

August 05, 2013|By Maria L. La Ganga
  • A commuter stands inside an Alameda-Contra Costa (AC) Transit bus in Oakland. Transit workers are threatening to strike starting at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.
A commuter stands inside an Alameda-Contra Costa (AC) Transit bus in Oakland.… (Justin Sullivan / Getty…)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Less than 24 hours after Gov. Jerry Brown’s intercession kept Bay Area Rapid Transit District workers from striking for a second time, the region’s transportation picture took a surprising turn for the worse.

At noon Monday, drivers and mechanics at a major East Bay bus district announced that they could walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, shutting down all service and leaving 181,000 riders in the lurch.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192 delivered its strike notification Monday to the AC Transit board of directors, announcing that 1,625 drivers and mechanics could walk off the job over stalled contract negotiations.

The workers have been without a contract since July 1.

AC Transit serves Alameda and Contra Costa counties and operates transbay service over the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge.

When BART workers went out on a 4 1/2-day strike in July, AC Transit workers decided not to strike. Instead, the district added more bus service to help ease the labor action’s impact on commuters.

BART workers were poised to strike again at 12:01 a.m. Monday, but Brown stepped in and called for an inquiry into negotiations.

The bus drivers' and mechanics' announcement Monday took AC Transit by surprise.

"We made substantial progress over the weekend" in negotiations, said AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson. "We’re not at an impasse.... We’re a little unsure why the union chose this time to give us a strike notice.... And we are unclear about what it would take to keep them from going on strike."

Johnson said the two sides are "very, very close now" and that only about a 1.5-percentage-point difference in wages separates the management and union positions. The district has proposed wage increases of 9% over three years.

AC Transit is also asking ATU members to pay 10% of their monthly healthcare premiums, which would be phased in over three years. The workers currently “do not contribute” to their healthcare coverage, Johnson said, and the change is “a bone of contention” in the negotiations.

A spokeswoman for ATU Local 192 could not be reached for comment.

A strike update on the union’s Facebook page described the differences on healthcare: "District proposes that we pay $201/month in the third year and assume risks of future increases. Union wants to phase in contributions at a reasonable level."

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 Twitter: @marialaganga

maria.laganga@latimes.com

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