Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition May Strike

The Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition’s 13 unions are voting this week and next whether to authorize a strike because they have been working without a contract since July 1.

The 450 union members in the coalition are Golden Gate Ferry deckhands and captains, Golden Gate Transit bus maintenance workers and mechanics, bridge ironworkers and inspectors and construction trades employees, the coalition’s co-chair Alex Tonisson said.

The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District has proposed a three-year contract that would increase the cost of employees’ healthcare premiums thereby negating a minimal wage increase, Tonisson said.

“A strike is very likely,” Tonnison said this morning.

The cost of living wage increases for union members in the coalition over the last 10 years are 12 percent below cost of living wage increases received by other earners in the Bay Area, Tonnison said.

Workers in the coalition have agreed to lower wages and no raises during the recent recession in response to the District’s financial concerns, Tonisson said.

“Since then, tolls have increased 20 percent, toll takers were laid off and coalition concessions led to large reserves and increases in management’s salaries,” Tonnison said.

Marina Secchitano, the coalition’s co-chair and a member of the Inland Boatmen’s Union, said outside bridge contractors will soon get a 3-4 percent cost of living increase while the District’s employees take a pay cut.

The coalition says the District’s last proposal was a 2.5- percent wage increase in 2014 and 2 percent in 2015 and 2016. The Bay Area Consumer Price Index is expected to be 2.8 percent in each of those years, according to the coalition.

The employees’ contribution to health insurance would increase 0.45 percent in 2015 and 2016, the coalition said.

The effect the District’s proposal would have on an employee making $32 an hour would be real wage decreases between 0.3 and 1.25 percent over the next three years, according to the labor coalition.

Contract negotiations began in April and another session is scheduled for Monday, Tonisson said.

Kary Witt, Golden Gate Bridge Manager and a member of the management’s negotiating team, would not discuss specifics of the negotiations or the District’s offer to the unions’ employees.

“We’re actively engaged and are meeting next week. All parties are bargaining in good faith,” Witt said.

“We’re hopeful and confident an agreement will be reached next week that will avoid a strike,” Witt said.

Tonisson said Bay Area residents know the hardships transit strikes have on commuters.

“No one wants the inconvenience associated with transportation workers taking action, but the District is leaving these workers little choice,” Tonisson said.

“This is about the middle class. We want the public to know what’s going on,” Tonisson said.

James Lanaras, Bay City News

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