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AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson takes questions from the media in front of the AC Transit headquarters on Franklin Street in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. Workers could go on strike at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday if contract negotiations do not improve. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

OAKLAND -- AC Transit officials are optimistic they can avert a strike that would strand 181,000 riders despite the union's notice on Monday that it would go out at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

"If talks proceed as they have, we should be OK in the morning" said AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson. "We are a little unsure why a strike notice was given in the first place."

Johnson said transit authorities would meet again at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday with union officials to negotiate a raise. ATU Local 192 is asking for 10 percent while AC Transit management has offered 9 percent to the 1,800 drivers, mechanics, dispatchers and clerical workers.

Johnson said AC Transit drivers are paid an average salary of $55,000 a year. With benefits that comes out to $103,000 a year, he said.

Also on the bargaining table are medical premiums and rest breaks. Management wants workers to pay 10 percent of their medical premiums, or about $120 every two weeks and workers say their rest times have been shortened.

Johnson said the negotiating ball is now in management's court and it will respond to the union later in the day.

Union officials were not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

Ted Miller, an AC Transit bus driver with 25 years experience, said Tuesday he thinks the drivers will strike Wednesday morning. He said the increase in medical premiums would eat up part of the 9 percent raise management is offering.

"They don't want us to be able to pay our mortgages or send our kids to college," Miller said. "They're like bullies and they'll take all they can get."

Contact Doug Oakley at 510-843-1408. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/douglasoakley.



AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson takes questions from the media in front of the AC Transit headquarters on Franklin Street in Oakland, Calif., on
AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson takes questions from the media in front of the AC Transit headquarters on Franklin Street in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. Workers could go on strike at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday if contract negotiations do not improve. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)