Golden Gate Bridge Workers
Picket First in Series of Anniversary Celebrations

Written by Kat Anderson. Posted in News

Published on February 24, 2012 with 1 Comment

Without a contract, as many as 100 union workers held a protest last eve at Fort Mason during the first of many celebrations commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. Photos by Luke Thomas.

By Kat Anderson

February 24, 2012

If you’re celebrating the 75th anniversary of one of the most important architectural structures in the world, shouldn’t you honor the people who keep it in good working order?

That was the takeaway question asked last night when as many as one hundred Golden Gate Bridge union workers picketed the Orchid Gala Benefit at Fort Mason, one of several celebratory events scheduled to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the world famous Golden Gate Bridge.

The workers say they are feeling under attack because they have been bargaining in good faith for over ten months without reaching agreement with the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District over a new labor contract.

The sticking point? The District’s demand that workers contribute an extra 2 percent of their salaries towards a healthcare premium sharing plan. The District wants agreement on this as part of a 10-year plan to close its $90 million budget deficit.

Over 380 union members have formed a coalition comprising 19 unions called the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition. As part of the negotiations, the Coalition has offered concessions worth $2 million per year and has been told by management that the District’s financial needs have been met.

The District’s latest demand is especially punishing to the lowest-paid workers and their families, workers say, and would require retirees to pay more towards their healthcare premiums, a move union members find in bad faith because retiree benefits are already vested.

“Right now, the way they are treating the workers is a real slap in the face and there’s a real injustice going on here,” said Alex Tonisson, Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition Co-Chair and IFPTE Local21 union representative. “This is kind of a symptom of all the anti-union and anti-public employee sentiments that have been going on. The District is trying to take advantage of that by overstepping their bounds saying, ‘We’ve met our financial needs, but we want something more.’”

Bob Muscat, Executive Director of IFPTE Local 21 (representing bridge engineers) added, “There are some really draconian cuts to bridge workers’ health insurance. Upper management and members of the Board aren’t going to suffer the same kind of cuts that they’re trying to impose on the workers.”

“It’s totally inequitable,” Muscat continued. “We have stepped up to make some concessions to help the Golden Gate Bridge authority meet its short-term budget challenges, but we’re not willing to sacrifice retiree health and long-term health insurance for people that have dedicated their lives to the bridge.”

The Coalition is going to keep the pressure on the District, holding protests and pickets at all the upcoming anniversary gala events with the hope of drawing in public support for their struggle. The next picket will be held at the California Historical Society on February 26.

“This is first in a series of bridge events and we intend to be at every single one of them to draw a contrast between the gala life that they’re living and the kind of challenges that the workers and their families are having day-to-day,” Muscat said.

District spokesperson Mary Currie said despite the District’s budget deficit and increased healthcare cost premiums, the District remains “optimistic” that ongoing negotiations will ultimately lead to agreeable terms.

Luke Thomas contributed to this report.


“We’re here to cook," said Firefighters Local 798 President Tom O'Connor. "Our new catering division is open to serve labor everywhere.” The firefighters converted the back of a fire engine into a barbeque grill. They served hotlinks, hamburgers and veggie burgers to the picketing Coalition workers.

Bob Keller, Inlandboatmen’s Union, Passenger Ferry Division, told FCJ: “The irony to us is, why is the party and the money going on when we have an $89 million deficit and yet they can’t seem to come up with the money to contribute to our healthcare?”

As many as 100 Coalition union workers attended last eve's picket and protest at Fort Mason.

Kat Anderson

Kat Anderson is a graduate of Hastings College of the Law and Stanford University. She has made San Francisco her home since 1988.

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Picket First in Series of Anniversary Celebrations
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  1. Important story; good pics’. Thanks.