By Ann Garrison
April 28, 2012
Occupy San Francisco, Jobs with Justice, and Pride at Work have been planning to occupy the Golden Gate Bridge on May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, in support of the Golden Gate Bridge workers who have been working without a contract for almost a year. Today, however, the Occupy the Bridge May Day coalition announced that the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition, which represents bridge, ferry, and bus workers, has asked them to call off the bridge action and redirect all efforts towards supporting May Day strike actions and picket lines.
Coalition organizer Alix Tonnison said there will be a strike on May Day because management has left them with no other choice. He thanked all the groups who have offered to stand with the bridge workers and asked them to attend their May Day picket lines instead of attempting to shutdown the bridge.
“Our situation has changed, and we’re working through the weekend to get the word out to our supporters, asking them to come to the picket lines and stand with us in our fight for quality health care, and to keep the bridge open,” Tonnison said.
He declined, however to comment on what had motivated the change in strategy.
“This is a fluid situation, and that’s all I can say about what’s going on,” he said.
When asked whether the decision had been made by union leaders or by union democracy, Tonnison responded, “This decision was made by the Coalition as a whole, and that includes rank and file members that have been elected as representatives for each of the fourteen unions that are part of the bargaining team, with feedback from the rank and file itself.”
There will still be a 7 am labor rally at the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza. KPFA will be there to cover it live and elsewhere to provide live coverage of Bay Area May Day labor actions and picket lines throughout the day.
On the Occupy the Bridge! Facebook page, after organizers posted the press release announcing the Coalition’s change of plans this morning, some Occupiers responded angrily, charging that organized labor is self-concerned, conservative, deferential to the Democratic Party, and disinterested or even hostile to the unorganized working class. Some Occupiers said they’d be there to shut the bridge down anyway.
Others responded that if Occupy wants to Occupy the Bridge for its own reasons, that’s one thing, but not good strategy on the day they’ve pledged to stand in solidarity with the labor coalition now asking them not to.
The last Golden Gate Bridge workers contract expired in July 2011. Forty-five bargaining sessions have failed to produce an agreement, and affordable health care remains the central point of contention between workers and management.
The Golden Gate Bridge Coalition will publish picket line locations at 10 pm on Monday, April 30th. Buses will depart from 19th and Telegraph in Oakland and San Francisco City Hall at 6am on the following day, May Day, to deliver supporters to strike picket locations.