CA: Golden Gate Ferry, Other Workers Looking at Strike Options

July 25--Strike authorization votes are underway with 13 unions that comprise the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition, including those that represent ferry captains and deckhands, potentially threatening the service.

The roughly 450 workers represented by the coalition have been working without a contract since July 1 and have been in negotiations with the district since April.

The Golden Gate Bridge district has proposed a three-year contract that would increase wages 6 percent over that period, but also increase the cost of employees' health care premiums, according to union officials. The union is seeking a 4 percent raise for each year of the three-year contract with no increases in health care premiums.

"We need wages to keep up with the high cost of living in the Bay Area," said union spokesman Alex Tonisson. "They are proposing a minor wage increase with higher premiums. It's like giving us $2 and taking $1 back."

Salaries vary widely, ranging from $40,000 a year for ferry deckhands and clerical workers to about $100,000 a year for licensed civil engineers.

Golden Gate Bridge officials did not return calls asking for comment.

No strike can take place until all the votes have been taken. Voting is expected to be completed next week.

"As Bay Area residents and commuters, we know that recent transit strikes have been hard on all of us -- from the workers to those who depend on public transportation," Tonisson said. "No one wants the inconvenience associated with transportation workers taking action. But the district is leaving these workers little choice."

Other workers represented by the coalition include: bus mechanics, bridge ironworkers and inspectors, and construction tradesmen and women. Bus drivers are not part of the coalition.

The union says coalition members are 12 percent behind the cost of living compared to other like workers in the Bay Area. During the recession, employees agreed to lower wages and no raises in response to the district's financial concerns. Since then, tolls have increased 20 percent, toll takers were laid off, while coalition concessions help lead to larger reserves and increases in management salaries, according to the union.

In April of 2012 ferry workers participated in a one-day strike.

Larkspur ferry ridership had grown 6.4 percent at the end of April when compared with April 2013, according to ferry officials. There are about 5,400 daily weekday riders.

Copyright 2014 - The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.

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