After BART reprieve, Bay Area commuters brace for bus strike
Fresh off a reprieve from Gov. Jerry Brown, who stepped in at the last minute to avert a BART strike, Bay Area commuters must now contend with the possibility of losing their bus service.
Drivers and mechanics at a major East Bay bus district are threatening to 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, less than 24 hours after Brown’s intercession kept Bay Area Rapid Transit District workers from striking for a second time.
Both unions are pushing back over proposed employee contributions to healthcare plans and are demanding higher wages.
AC Transit driver Kevin Reed told KPIX-TV in San Francisco that his coworkers hadn’t had a “decent” wage increase in more than eight years.
“The last six years, it’s been ‘take take take’ from the district,” he said.
AC Transit serves Alameda and Contra Costa counties and via the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge.
When BART workers went 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 effect on commuters.
AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson said the union’s strike announcement was a surprise considering the two sides are “very, very close now.”
The district has proposed wage increases of 9% over three years, and is asking ATU members to pay 10% of their monthly healthcare premiums, which would be phased in over three years. ATU members currently do not contribute to their healthcare plans, according to Johnson.
The public tone of the dispute has differed greatly from the spat between BART and Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555.
BART officials on Sunday night asked Brown to step in when it became clear no agreement would be reached by the midnight deadline for triggering a strike. In doing so, Brown named a three-member panel to investigate the disagreement between labor leaders and BART and to report back in seven days.
Once Brown has the board’s report, state law allows him to ask a judge to order a 60-day cooling-off period, giving an estimated 400,000 passengers who use the system each day a reprieve.
Staff writer Maria L. La Ganga contributed to this report.
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