Jessica Kwong/The S.F. ExaminerMembers of Teamsters Local 856

Golden Gate Bridge bus workers to go on one-day strike

After two earlier strikes did not yield the demands they sought at the labor negotiations table, Golden Gate Bridge workers in the bus division announced today they plan to strike Oct. 17 from 3 a.m. until the end of the day, an action that could affect tens of thousands of passengers.

Members of Teamsters Local 856, which includes bus dispatchers, road supervisors and customer service representatives, as well as Teamsters Local 665, who work in bus maintenance, announced the one-day strike outside the St. Francis Yacht Club with the iconic bridge as the backdrop.

While drivers will not strike, they have decided to honor the picket line, meaning no bus service, said Alex Tonisson, co-chair of the 13-union Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition.

The labor action would affect more than double the number of commuters as the previous two strikes over the proposed contract, which would increase worker wages three percent each year for the next three years, but contains disagreements over healthcare.

On a typical weekday, about 22,000 people use the bus service, according to Priya Clemens, spokeswoman for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.

“We specifically chose Friday because that is a low commute day,” said Tim Jenkins, a labor representative for Teamsters Local 856.

Tonisson claimed the district raised premiums for existing health care plans to sway employees toward a new “bronze plan” that would leave families with up to $12,000 in out-of-pocket costs per year.

But Clemens said the coalition’s statements were misconstrued and that the district gives each employee on the bronze plan a $12,000 debit card that can be used on medical expenses to cover the out-of-pocket amount. She added the district has reached out to state mediation services but the coalition refused to participate.

“Our hope is that the coalition will engage in mediation with us instead of putting the public into this situation of dealing with a strike,” Clemens said. “Especially such a massive work stoppage that’s really going to affect the North Bay hugely.”

The last strike on Sept. 26 by ferry captains affected about 9,000 people who use the service on a given weekday.

The first strike by Machinists Local 1414 on Sept. 16 did not affect commuters.

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