Golden Gate Bridge employees vote to strike, but date unknown 

click to enlarge Golden Gate Ferry
  • Cindy Chew/2007 S.F. Examiner file photo
  • Ferry deckhands for the Golden Gate Ferry may go on strike.
All 13 unions within the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition voted Monday night to strike, which would shut down ferry and bus service, but no date for the labor action was announced and they are continuing to bargain with the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.

Bridge employees have been working without a contract since July 1. That includes about 450 ferry captains and deckhands, bus servicers and mechanics, ironworkers, inspectors and construction workers.

Members’ wages are currently 12 percent behind the cost-of-living increase in the Bay Area, said Alex Tonisson, co-chair of the coalition. The proposed three-year contract would increase the cost of employees’ health care premiums, negating what Tonisson considers a minimal wage increase.

“Our members do not want to go on strike, but what the district is offering is not acceptable,” said Tonisson, who would not disclose any other specifics of the proposed contract. “We are struggling, and we think the Bay Area can relate.”

Bridge district General Manager Denis Mulligan said workers were offered a 3 percent wage increase per year, totaling 9 percent in the three years, and that his agency has conducted surveys that indicate the salaries “are competitive with other jobs in the Bay Area.” Mulligan also noted that employees currently contribute to their medical benefits and the district seeks to increase that contribution rate in the proposed contract.

“We’re in the midst of negotiations, but that’s what we have on the table,” he said. “We feel it strikes a balance between the desires of our employees and the desires and needs of our toll payers.”

If some or all of the unions strike, they will try to alert commuters so they can make alternative travel plans, Tonisson said. Ferry terminal assistants gave a one-day notice before striking May 1, 2012, with other union members in solidarity forming a picket line of more than 300 people.

While electronic tolling implemented March 27, 2013, allows motorists to cross the bridge without workers, buses and ferries remove an estimated 25 percent of road traffic, according to the bridge district.

Coalition members have been giving out leaflets to commuters for the past six days at the Ferry Building in The City and in Marin County. Unions individually began voting to strike starting two weeks ago, but it was not until Monday that all 13 were submitted.

Tonisson said the pay range for the workers represented by the unions is $40,000 to more than $100,000 per year.

A strike also could halt smaller, ongoing construction projects and maintenance work, such as the suicide barrier for the bridge that received funding approval in June.

“Right now the suicide barrier project has not actually started,” Tonisson said. “But in the future, if there was a strike, then that actually might be shut down for a while.”

The district and union members met all day Monday and are scheduled to meet again next Monday.

While there is no deadline for an agreement, members have been under the terms and conditions of the contract that expired June 30 and the new contract will not be retroactive.

“We hope to avoid a strike,” Mulligan said. “We think it’s not fair to our customers.”

This story has been updated from the Aug. 6 print edition.

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Bio:
Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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