Governor Brown temporarily blocks AC Transit strike

AC Transit sign

AC Transit buses would have halted operation if a strike had moved forward on Thursday.

AC Transit workers were barred from striking on Thursday after Governor Jerry Brown said he’ll take the next week to have an investigative board examine the labor dispute and determine if a 60-day cooling off period is warranted.

“I urge both sides to take this matter seriously and to continue working to find a fair solution,” Brown said in a written statement.

A strike by the bus line would have left thousands of riders without their usual transportation. AC Transit provides—on average—174,000 rides each day. The line also provides over 700,000 paratransit rides over the course of the year to people with disabilities.

“We are very relieved and very happy for our riders–particularly the 30,000 schoolchildren who would have had to look for other transportation if the strike had moved forward,” said Clarence Johnson, press secretary for AC Transit. Union officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

“Both sides will now have the chance to see what is wanted by the other and what is needed, and that’s a good thing,” Johnson added.

AC Transit management and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) local 192 have yet to reach a deal. However, Governor Brown has established a board to investigate the dispute between the two parties over the course of seven days, during which time the workers are banned from striking. After the board submits a report on the investigation, Governor Brown can then ask a judge to require a 60-day cooling-off period.

The first warning flare of a strike went up earlier this week when ATU Local 192 issued a 72-hour hour notice to strike starting just after midnight on Thursday.

“Our members have spoken loud and clear,” said ATU Local 192 President Yvonne Williams in the notice to strike on Monday. “Our members have not forgotten the real and significant wage cuts which they took for the last three years so that service could be maintained throughout the recession.”

Williams also had asked for more forgiving medical premium payments in the workers’ contract and noted safety issues bus drivers face with “shootings and other violence on the buses occurring with alarming frequency.”

There’s still no word about whether there will be a BART strike.  Thousands of its rail commuters await the conclusion of prolonged contract talks between BART and its workers’ unions, whose strike deadline has been repeatedly postponed this week, most recently Tuesday night after a federal mediator urged the parties to keep talking.

Stay tuned to the Oakland North liveblog for more information on this developing story.

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