State board hears testimony on AC Transit labor dispute


The drivers authorized a strike last week, but Gov. Jerry Brown stepped in and appointed a panel to investigate the matter. The chairman of the panel heard, what he calls, "powerful testimony."

If the AC Transit buses stop rolling, you might be able to switch to your car, but for many disabled that is simply not an option.

"I ask, I urge, I implore the union and I implore management to work out their differences," said Scott Blanks, a blind activist, from the Accessibility Advisory Committee, who says a strike could be a life and death issue for some people.

He testified before a board of investigation that is compiling a report to help the governor decide if a 60-day cooling off period should be ordered in the labor dispute. The district is asking for the extra time since the Amalgamated Transit Union has twice rejected a new three year deal.

"We're close. We just need a little more time and communication and we can work this out," said David Armijo, an AC Transit general manager.

Regina Jackson hopes so. Of the 180,000 bus riders using AC Transit each day are kids from her East Oakland Youth Development Center.

"If they are unable to arrive for our after school programs, at least 100 students are going to miss their tutoring in math, science and language arts," said Jackson.

Union negotiators have approved the contract offer, which incudes and a half percent raise over three years. But the rank and file bus operators say first time health care premiums are the sticking point.

"Yes, we care about our public, but our operators would like to think that the company is caring about them," said Joyce Willis, a bus operator.

The investigators have until Wednesday to deliver their report to the governor.

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