AC Transit board, union agree on tentative work contract

Anthony Bongco/File

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An AC Transit workers’ union and the AC Transit board came to a three-year contract agreement late Tuesday evening, about an hour before the union had threatened to go on strike.

After working for several months, the union’s negotiations committee reached a tentative agreement with the AC Transit Board that saved about 181,000 daily riders from having to find alternative modes of transportation. Negotiations resolved disagreements over health care premiums and salary increases that required financial compromises from both parties.

“I wanted a contract that was fair to the ATU workers,” said Sharon Cornu, a spokesperson for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192. “I think this contract reflects that.”

The agreement settled on a 9.5 percent wage increase for workers over the next three years. Originally, employees sought a 9.75 percent increase, and the transit agency was offering 9 percent.

“Wages have not kept up with the cost of living in the Bay Area,” said Yvonne Williams, president of ATU Local 192. “We’ve been behind for quite a while. But it’s an improvement, and we do need that improvement.”

In the last year of the previous contract, which expired June 30, workers had to allocate 3 percent of their salaries toward health care. Now, workers will pay the monthly flat rates of $70, $140 and $180 for the next three years, respectively. The union originally wanted $135 for the second year, and the board asked for $145.

Although the union had received previous salary increases, the money was allocated toward health care. However, there will now be in a net increase even after part of workers’ salaries is spent on health care.

Despite the agreements over health care and salaries, Cornu and several AC Transit bus drivers said that the lack of scheduled restroom and lunch breaks needs to be addressed.

“It’s probably the No. 1 safety issue,” said Drayland Davis, who has been an AC Transit bus driver for the past 15 years. “You try to run to the bathroom, and that’s only if you reach the end of your route early.”

According to Williams, the issue will be on the directors’ agenda next meeting.

Just last Sunday, Gov. Jerry Brown intervened to prevent another BART strike with a seven-day injunction against work stoppage. This incident, in conjunction with the BART strike on July 1, has made many Bay Area riders uncertain about finding transportation in the past month.

“We did not take the possibility of withholding service from public lightly,” Williams said. “That was more stressful than the negotiations process.”

The agreement will be presented to union members shortly, with a simple majority vote needed for ratification.

“I was quite pleased with the fact that this thing went with a whole of respect and relatively very little anger,” said Christian Peeples, who is on the AC Transit Board.

Contact Mary Zhou at [email protected]