On the Picket Line

East Bay transit workers fight bosses’ takebacks, seek support

By Eric Simpson
and Betsey Stone
February 24, 2020

OAKLAND, Calif. — Bus drivers, mechanics and clerical workers employed by the AC Transit system in the East Bay held a midday rally outside the agency’s headquarters Feb. 5, seeking to win more support for their fight against the company’s takeback demands.

Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192 voted in September to authorize a strike across the system, which runs from Richmond to Fremont. The last three-year contract expired in June 2019. 

The company wants to push through a rule saying if a worker takes off more than 30 days to recover from a debilitating injury or illness, they can be terminated.

Mechanic Pascal Jeandebien told the Militant  that if the bosses’ demand was in place today, he would have been fired, since he just went through a surgery that had him out for 60 days. The previous contract allowed workers to take up to a year.

Driver Terry Johnson said he’s opposed to this rule change, which come on top of takebacks imposed in earlier contracts. “In 2015 they lowered the wages and pensions of the new hires,” Johnson said. The company is actively recruiting drivers at the lower pay scale.

When asked if he had ever been on strike, Johnson replied, “No, but I’m ready.”

Jacque Sharp has worked for AC Transit for 20 years. “An issue I have is that the shifts are sometimes 10 hours, without lunch,” she said. “You might have just seven to 15 minutes to turn around at the end of a run, dependent on the traffic, to eat and use the bathroom.”