And just like that, the May 1 action that had the Bay Area a-twitter this week has been cancelled: the Golden Gate bridge will remain open on May 1 morning, say the bridge workers.
“As we prepare to take the next step in the fight for quality affordable healthcare for workers, families, and retirees, we ask supporters to stand with us at strike picket lines on May Day, and to keep the bridge open,” said Alex Tonisson, co-chair of the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition, an organization of 380 workers represented by 14 unions who have been out of contract since July 2011 over a dispute about medical insurance costs passed on to workers.
The coalition says they have agreed to a combined $2 million in concessions, but the bridge district denies this.
“I don’t know where they’re getting that number,” said Mary Currie, a spokesperson for the Golden Gate Bridge District.
The coalition made the announcement late Friday night after a week of speculation about what such an action would look like. Over the past week, the initial prospect of a blockade mid-span and mid-traffic turned into a more tame “traffic-blocking” roving march and arrestable civil disobedience near but not on the bridge in such a form that “would cause the shutdown of the bridge,” as well as blockading ferry and bus services simultaneously.
Organizers now say they will have hard pickets shutting down the ferry services in the early morning of May 1. If the ferries and buses are shut down and the bridge is not, the district actually stands to make more money on May 1, as the bridge tolls offset these other services.
Occupy activists who had been organizing with the labor coalition since early planning stages had been clear that a bridge blockade would only come at the behest of the workers, and would not be Occupy’s action, though it would come with Occupy support.
“If union workers aren’t brave enough, not willing to put themselves on the line, it’s unfair for them to ask us to put ourselves on the line in their place,” said Lauren Smith, an organizer with the Occupy Oakland labor solidarity committee which grew out of the West Coast Port Shutdown in December. Support, she said, does not look like substitutionism.
“We were always going to follow the workers’ lead and this is what they wanted,” tweeted Marcus Kryshka, an Occupy activist and legal worker who had been involved in planning the action with the coalition.
Buses are still scheduled to leave 19th and Telegraph in Oakland at 6 a.m. to take Occupy Oakland activists to the bridge, and there is Twitter clamor about organizing an “autonomous action” to shut down the bridge. However, a statement from Occupy Oakland says the group pledges to stand with the workers to shut down the ferries and buses early on May 1, and to keep the bridge open.