Brown delays AC Transit strike for up to 7 days

Evan Walbridge/File
Evan Walbridge/File

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At the request of AC Transit’s Board of Directors, Gov. Jerry Brown stepped in Wednesday to avert a union strike that could have started just after midnight Friday.

On Wednesday afternoon, Brown appointed a three-member board of inquiry to investigate the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192’s strike notice issued Monday. The board has seven days to conduct its investigation, during which strikes and lockouts are prohibited by law.

On Monday morning, the board will hold a hearing in Oakland to determine whether a strike would pose a significant threat to public welfare, safety or health. During the hearing, board members will listen to presentations from both sides of the labor dispute.

The individuals appointed to the board are Peter Southworth, deputy secretary and general counsel at the California Transportation Agency; Josie Camacho, executive secretary-treasurer of the Alameda Labor Council; and Micki Callahan, director of human resources for the city and county of San Francisco.

At the end of its investigation, the board will present its findings to Brown, and, based on the results, Brown could then petition a court for a 60-day cooling-off period, during which all walkouts and strikes would be prohibited, essentially extending the current seven-day allotted period.

“For the sake of the people of the Bay Area, I urge both sides to take this matter seriously and to continue working to find a fair solution,” Brown said in his letter to the union and AC Transit.

Clarence Johnson, a spokesperson for AC Transit, expects the agency will be successful in attaining the cooling-off-period order.

“We asked for the cooling-off period because nothing has changed,” said Johnson, referring to the state of negotiations.

Ed Nash, vice president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192, said rising medical costs are a top priority for union members. The two tentative agreements bargaining teams reached in August and September outlined benefits such as a flat-rate payment for health insurance, but the majority of rank-and-file employees, including bus operators and mechanics, rejected both tentative agreements.

“Nobody wants a strike,” said Margot Rosenberg, an attorney representing the ATU Local 192. “We feel very positive that the district is willing to come back to the table.”

Should Brown request a cooling-off period, Rosenberg said she is confident both bargaining teams will reach a satisfactory agreement over the two months.

While Brown’s actions have averted an AC Transit strike for the time being, labor unions representing BART employees have threatened to strike Friday, which could affect 400,000 commuters in the Bay Area.

If AC Transit workers had gone on strike, about 200,000 passengers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, including thousands of schoolchildren, would have been affected Thursday.

Contact Kimberly Veklerov at [email protected].