By Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News Service
An attorney for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192, which represents about
1,700 bus drivers, mechanics, dispatchers, clerical and other workers, didn't
oppose the cooling-off period at a brief hearing before Alameda County Superior
Court Judge Evelio Grillo this morning.
Margot Rosenberg, the union's attorney, said afterward that the union didn't object to the cooling-off period because Brown was entitled to seek it.
Rosenberg said the cooling-off period means that "there's one more shot for the union and AC Transit to come to an agreement that union members will ratify."
She noted that union leaders have previously reached two tentative agreements with management but that union members have voted down both. The most recent vote was Oct. 1.
The union threatened to go on strike last Thursday but Brown averted the walkout by calling for a seven-day fact-finding process that resulted in his request for a cooling-off period.
Rosenberg said that if an agreement isn't reached by the end of the cooling-off period, "We'll be in the same situation (of a strike threat) on Christmas Eve so wish us all luck."
Brown issued his request for a cooling-off period late Tuesday, a day after a three-member panel he appointed held a fact-finding hearing on the matter at the state building in Oakland.
Grillo said he granted Brown's request because an AC Transit strike would significantly disrupt public transportation services in the Bay Area and would endanger the public's health, safety and welfare.
AC Transit provides about 181,000 daily trips and 52.6 million trips annually to riders, according to a report by the fact-finding panel.
Rosenberg said that although AC Transit management is offering employees a 9.5 percent pay hike over three years, employees fear the increase will be offset by higher worker payments toward health care and retirement benefits.
She said employees are unhappy because they haven't had a pay raise since 2009 and took an 8.5 percent pay cut in their previous three-year contract with AC Transit.
Rosenberg said contract talks have been "extremely contentious at times" but that she hopes "we got the nastiness out of the way" and the two sides can now reach an agreement.
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