AC Transit faces Wednesday strike deadline

Bay Area commuters are facing an outside chance at a sort of commuting Armageddon.

Just as people who rely on BART to get around the Bay Area were breathing a sigh of relief that a second BART strike has been at least temporarily averted, commuters who ride AC Transit buses received some alarming news.

Officials with the union that represents AC Transit’s bus drivers, mechanics and dispatchers delivered a strike notice to the transit agency, warning that if a labor deal is not reached by 12:01 am. Wednesday, the 1,800 workers it represents will walk off the job.

In delivering the strike notice Monday Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192 president Yvonne Williams said:

“After a long night of negotiating, and negotiating since March 31, we are here today to present to AC Transit Board of Directors, unfortunately, with our notice of intent to strike.”

With a sharp increase in ridership during the past year, if AC Transit buses come to a halt, the 180,000 passengers it carries every day — mostly in the East Bay and from the East Bay into San Francisco — would have to find other ways to get around.

With BART carrying nearly 400,000 passengers a day, a strike at the same time by both agencies would have an unprecedented impact on the area’s commute.

Like the contract between BART workers and BART, the labor contract with AC Transit expired on June 30, but union workers have stayed on the job while labor leaders and transit officials continued negotiations.

The talks between AC Transit and its union have also lacked the hostile tones of the BART talks, with neither labor or management using the media to blast each other.

And, though both sides remain at odds over pay, health benefits and other issues, the gaps in reaching an agreement are not as great as in the BART talks.

AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson said Monday:

“We are very, very close, particularly  with regard to wages. We don’t really see a reason that we can’t come to some kind of common ground.”