AC Transit employees may strike on Wednesday

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Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192 will go on strike on Wednesday if they do not reach an agreement with AC Transit by midnight.

ATU Local 192, which represents 1,800 bus drivers and mechanics, gave notice on Monday of its intention to strike, which could leave AC Transit’s 181,000 daily riders without transportation. Employees’ contracts expired in late June, and negotiations have been ongoing for several weeks.

According to Clarence Johnson, manager of media affairs at AC Transit, both parties have been working to come to a solution and avoid service interruption. As the third-largest public bus system in California, an AC Transit strike is expected to cause much disruption as the BART strike last month did.

“Regrettably, our contingency plan involves simply no service,” Johnson said. “We cannot operate without drivers.”

Wage increases and contributions to health care have proved to be major issues in the negotiations. ATU members currently do not contribute to health coverage costs.

“We’re more than willing to pay,” said Yvonne Williams, president of ATU Local 192. “But we need a flat rate rather than a percentage, since we can’t control what that might escalate to.”

According to Johnson, the district wants ATU employees to contribute 10 percent of the cost of the monthly premiums, which would equal approximately $120 per pay period. The union’s flat rate would equal about $80 per pay period.

In a press conference on Tuesday morning, Johnson said that he is optimistic about preventing a strike, given the steady progress that has been made thus far.

“We started this weekend at $9 million dollars apart,” Johnson said. “We’re now only about $4 million apart as of last night. We are 1 percentage point apart in our wage proposals. We’re offering 9 percent; the union is seeking 10 percent. We’re moving in the right direction.”

According to Williams, however, the negotiations have been a “difficult process.” Although the union wishes to avoid a strike, it remains a possible outcome.

“Our goal is to avert a strike,” Williams said. “But we’re still intending to strike if we do not reach a collective bargaining agreement for our members for ratification.”

Contact Somin Park at [email protected].