Golden Gate Bridge Workers Call Off May Day Bridge Occupation

Written by Ann Garrison. Posted in Labor, News, Politics

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Published on April 28, 2012 with 10 Comments

By Ann Garrison

April 28, 2012

Occupy the Golden Gate Bridge on May DayOccupy 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.

Ann Garrison

Ann Garrison also writes for the San Francisco Bay View, National Black Newspaper and Global Research, reports for Pacifica stations KPFA, WBAI, and KMEC, and maintains a Youtube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang, and her own website, anngarrison.com. She is working on a book titled "Sodomy and Hypocrisy: American Evangelicals, LGBT Persecution, War Crimes and Sexual Atrocities in East/Central Africa." She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Doug-Nielson/701163949 Doug Nielson

    So they called off shutting down the bridge, but they called a strike instead. so what are they striking/shutting down if not the bridge?

    • http://twitter.com/AnnGarrison AnnGarrison

      @Doug:  Interesting question.  They’re not going to announce that until 10 pm Monday night.  Seems reasonable to expect that assuming there’s a real strike, or perhaps more than one, bus drivers won’t drive passengers across the bridge, bridge toll takers won’t take tolls, ferry personnel won’t operate the ferries, and/or other members of these 14 unions whose work sustains transpo across the Bay won’t work either.

      • Hank Chapot

         Please AnnGarrison, please stick to reporting. These conjectures are total crap, “bus drivers won’t drive passengers across the bridge, bridge toll takers
        won’t take tolls, ferry personnel won’t operate the ferries, and/or
        other members of these 14 unions whose work sustains transpo across the
        Bay won’t work either.”

        • http://twitter.com/AnnGarrison AnnGarrison

          @Hank: A strike generally means that workers stop working.  That’s some of what most people would expect to happen when bridge, bus, and ferry workers stop working.  

  • Clark Sullivan

    We will be livestreaming  all day May Day of Occupy events around the Bay Area on our home page: http://www.occupysf.org/

  • http://twitter.com/justizin Justin Alan Ryan

    It’s hard to say what the motivation is for this change, but rank-and-file occupiers at #OccupyTheFarm expressed frustration that they felt used as a threat by union organizers who may have deprived the movement of an opportunity to organize another mass protest action for the May 1 General Strike.  Some members of the Occupy movement are willing to join in solidarity with labor unions toward a mutual goal, but most are not surprised to see a last-minute change of tactics which takes the wind out of the sails of hundreds of hard-working organizers.  Rather than a rally calling attention to economic inequality across the population,  union organizers have requested that other people take the day off work to protest for *their* healthcare.  I wouldn’t be surprised if their call for Occupy support turns into a counter-protest of their picket line with unemployed occupiers willing to cross for work.

    • http://twitter.com/AnnGarrison AnnGarrison

      Interesting.  I’m going to encourage the KPFA team covering this to read the comments on this report.  Did OccupyTheFarm agree on any kind of statement, and/or do you think there are any other published responses they should be aware of?

  • Elizabeth Milos

    I think that rather than attributing this to selfishness on the part of the “employed” workers, maybe there should be an awareness that there are still many workers out there that may not be totally in favor of the tactic of occupying or might be afraid of the consequences of such an action which they could be seen as responsible for.
    I think this calls for a time of unity even if we might be disappointed in this last minute change. The worse thing that could happen is if we fan the flames of divisiveness for May Day 2012. Lets join the picket lines!  If we show our presence there, who knows? maybe we can help those in the sidelines to see that unity is what really matters.

  • http://twitter.com/AnnGarrison AnnGarrison

    Here’s a link to Mitch Jeseritch’s round table discussion about tomorrow’s May Day, starting with the no-bridge-occupation news, this morning, April 30th:  http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/80156

    It’s not yet clear whether or not Occupy will try to Occupy the Bridge anyway. Ferry workers are going on strike, but, someone on Mitch’s show reported that if only ferry and/or ferry and bus workers strike, and the bridge stays open, the GG Bridge Authority will come out ahead, because operating the ferries and the buses is more costly than keeping the bridge open for cars.

  • RICHMONDMAN

    Great job in the Mission last night.  Sure they won lots of converts after they trashed the neighborhood.  And very couragous in their black masks.   They are the 1%.;

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