Unionized bus drivers in the Bay Area have voted down a contract proposal, setting the stage once again for a possible strike that could affect thousands of commuters.
Roughly 181,000 people who ride the AC Transit bus lines every day could ultimately be affected by the labor dispute.
The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192 -- which represents drivers, mechanics and dispatchers for the East Bay district -- had averted a strike earlier this month with a tentative deal that included 9.5% pay increases to be phased in over three years.
Over the same period, union members would start contributing toward healthcare costs.
But that deal was voted down over the weekend by rank-and-file members 576 to 256, according to a post on the union's Facebook page.
AC Transit bus driver Melvin Gaines told KTVU-TV that it was a "pretty strong no vote." The outcome, he added, says “we want something better."
Bus drivers for the district make an average $55,000 a year.
AC Transit did not comment on the vote since it had not yet received official notification.
The union had threatened to strike earlier this month around the same time Gov. Jerry Brown interceded to keep Bay Area Rapid Transit District workers from striking for a second time. A judge has since ordered a 60-day cooling-off period as a three-member panel is brought in to analyze the BART contract dispute.
During the last BART shutdown, AC Transit workers decided not to strike, earning some political points with commuters. But the seesaw whipping of possible strikes and rhetoric over the past months may have started eroding that good will.
If the ATU dispute leads to a service shutdown, Marin Rodriguez of Oakland told KTVU, "I don’t know if the public opinion is going to be on the workers’ side."
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