By Kate Selig
Bay City News Foundation
The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District Board of Directors voted unanimously Wednesday to reverse the planned layoffs of nearly 150 employees, effective upon a federal COVID-19-related stimulus bill becoming law.
The board voted in November to eliminate 145 filled staff positions and 59 vacant ones, with the layoffs taking effect in early January. The layoffs were prompted by a drop in transit use and loss of revenue for the district during the pandemic. Directors said at the November meeting that staff reductions would help the district cut costs without raising toll prices.
The future of the stimulus bill is not certain. The House and Senate late Monday passed the bipartisan bill, which includes about $14 billion for transit agencies across the country. But President Donald Trump threatened Tuesday evening to veto the bill, calling it a “disgrace” and requesting larger checks for Americans.
Directors, for the most part, said they are optimistic Trump will sign the bill, and if not, that Congress will override his veto.
Golden Gate Bridge District General Manager and CEO Denis Mulligan said the district anticipates it will receive enough federal funds from the stimulus bill to offset savings from the layoffs. He noted that if transit use does not return to normal levels in the coming months or if there is not further federal relief, layoffs could be back on the table.
“But that’s for another day,” he said. “Today we see light at the end of the tunnel.”
The board will also rescind the furlough program approved in November to temporarily reduce pay for mid-managers, deputy general managers, district officers and board members by 10 percent. The board will not rescind the $2.1 million severance package that offered laid-off employees four months of medical benefits and severance pay, as some employees have taken advantage of the package.
During the meeting’s public comment period, residents, including union leaders and bridge district employees, thanked the board for rolling back the layoffs, especially in advance of the holidays.
Director Brian Sobel, who also chairs the board’s Finance-Auditing Committee, said the vote to implement the layoffs was “the toughest decision” current board members have had to make. Wednesday’s vote, he said, would allow bridge district workers to breathe a sigh of relief.
“It’s a wonderful holiday gift that layoffs can be put off hopefully forever, but at least for a very long time,” he said.