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Nick Johnes, 15, Kai Greasha, 6, and Joseph McEwing, 13, wait for an AC Transit bus next to the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland Calif. on Thursday, July 22, 2010.(Alex Washburn/Staff)

OAKLAND — With her 6-month-old twins in tow, Dominique Freeman takes the Line 40 AC Transit bus from Eastmont Town Center to the baby sitter before heading to work. But she has been late to work every day this week after waiting more than an hour some days for the bus that usual runs every 20 minutes.

Riders are feeling the brunt of the labor dispute after AC Transit imposed a cost-cutting contract on bus drivers Sunday. About 20 percent of the bus drivers have called in sick each day this week; about 190 bus drivers didn't show up for work Thursday.

"It really upsets me because my babies could get sick waiting out here in the cold," Freeman said.

She is not alone in her frustration.

"There are a lot more people on the bus and the bus drivers are taking out their frustrations on the passengers," said Carmen de la Cruz, who boarded the bus on 35th Avenue and International Boulevard. "The buses are not stopping for people if there are too many people waiting at a bus stop."

Natasha Guilford, who was driving Line 73 along Hegenberger Road, said, "There are a lot of buses that haven't left the yard because there are no drivers to take them out."

The transit system has asked for cuts to overtime, health insurance, and other costs to help get them through financial struggles.

"The district has imposed a good contract on the ATU Union that asks them to help pay for their insurance services," said AC Transit spokesman Sam Singer.


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On Tuesday, a judge failed to rule on whether the transit system could impose a contract on its workers. An Alameda County Superior Court judge scheduled a full hearing July 30 on the drivers' request for an injunction blocking the imposition.

AC Transit driver Jeffrey Beaty, who was driving Line 40 Thursday, doesn't agree with the contract being imposed on them.

"It's unfair labor practice," he said. "Our general manager didn't take a cut, so why should we?"

For now, bus passengers are the most affected by this dispute.

"I waited for the bus an hour yesterday and was late at picking up my daughter from kindergarten," said Eva Maldonado, who was waiting for the bus in the Fruitvale district.

Gretchen Montgomery has been fortunate. "I have been very blessed with no delays. I have only noticed the buses fuller."

All 110 AC Transit lines have been functioning this week with some on irregular times, Singer said.

"We're hopeful more drivers will return to work after realizing people's displacements."