An AC Transit bus waits at Macarthur BART station in Oakland. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)
An AC Transit bus waits at MacArthur BART station in Oakland. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

Update, 10 a.m. Wednesday: An Alameda County Superior Court judge has granted Gov. Jerry Brown’s request for a 60-day cookling-off period in the AC Transit contract dispute. That gives the East Bay bus agency and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192 until Dec. 22 to settle their differences.

Update, 5 p.m. Tuesday: Gov. Jerry Brown has announced he’ll ask an Alameda County judge to impose a 60-day cooling-off period that would delay a strike at AC Transit:

On Monday, the board of investigation, appointed by the Governor last Wednesday to examine the dispute, issued its findings.

The report concluded that a strike will cause “significant disruption in public transportation services and significant harm to the public’s health, safety, and welfare.”

The Alameda County Superior Court will consider the Governor’s request on Wednesday morning. If the court finds that a strike will significantly disrupt public transportation services and endanger the public’s health, safety or welfare, an order will be issued enjoining the strike for a period of 60 days.

Original post: One major Bay Area transit labor dispute has been settled. But another, involving the East Bay’s AC Transit, appears to be far from resolved.

Gov. Jerry Brown took the first step last week toward imposing a 60-day cooling-off period by appointing a board of inquiry to report on the battle between the bus agency and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192. The union represents drivers, mechanics and other district workers and set a strike deadline last week after rejecting two contract proposals.

Monday, both sides made their case to the three-member board. The panel, meeting at the state building in Oakland, also heard from community groups who said an AC Transit strike would prevent thousands of students from getting to school every day and have a deep impact on poor communities the system serves. More than 60 percent of AC Transit’s riders have low incomes and don’t own cars.

Adam Taylor with the West Contra Costa School District told the board that schoolkids, especially those from rough neighborhoods, would be hit hard. “They are put in harm’s way each and every day as they walk, trying to get a place where they feel safe, where many of our kids will receive the only one or two meals they’ll have that day,” Taylor said. In their presentation, AC Transit workers said the issue of violence on buses hadn’t been adequately addressed in the two contracts they’ve rejected.

“Many of our operators are definitely afraid,” ATU 192 President Yvonne Williams said. “I get calls at the union hall asking us to take operators, to take bus operators, off of different bus lines and different routes because they don’t feel they’re being protected.”

The union says the need for restroom breaks also hasn’t been addressed and that some drivers actually wear adult diapers because of the hours they’re required to drive. Pay and medical benefits are other sticking points in the contract dispute.

AC Transit said yesterday it’s concerned about working conditions at the agency and is optimistic it can reach a new deal.

The board of inquiry has until Wednesday to submit its fact-finding report to the governor, who will then decide whether to ask a court to impose a cooling-off period. AC Transit carries about 100,000 people a day.

This report is based on reporting by KQED’s Bryan Goebel.

  • Jon smith

    Bus Drivers are lucky they even have jobs. Let’s be honest there’s no way that a bus driver deserves to make close to $30 an hour. Most of them barely made it out of high school. You can teach an 18 year old to drive a bus. If they were working for a private company they would be lucky to make $20 an hour.

    • Jane Doe

      Um… They make $23 and change per hour while they get shot at, spit on, yelled at and cussed out while working split shifts with a spread of 12-14 hours. Let’s just say they are closer to $20/hour than $30/hour and that it’s not the glamour job you make it out to be. There is a huge turnover with drivers, so by all means apply for the job and see how long you can take it… Let’s here what you have to say about the lowest paid mechanics and techs while we’re at it. If only CHP did an inspection on everyone’s vehicle right…

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Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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