Mike Koozmin/S.F. ExaminerGolden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition co-chair Alex Tonisson speaks at a press conference in front of the Ferry Building announcing the Golden Gate Bridge transit district ferry service will not operate Friday due to a one-day strike caused by what they call "bad-faith bargaining" by the district.

Golden Gate Ferry strike to shut down service Friday

Golden Gate Bridge transit district ferry service will not operate Friday, as captains at the Ferry Building, Larkspur and Sausalito terminals will go on a strike from 4:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The unfair labor practice charge filed Wednesday against the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District is an “artificial pretext to go on strike,” said bridge district General Manager Denis Mulligan. He noted that if union members chose to file their complaint with the state, commuters and the public would not be impacted.

“The basis for the strike is just bogus,” Mulligan said. “There's no other word to describe it because if there is an unfair labor practice charge and they asked the state to adjudicate it, why can't they wait for the state to make a ruling one way or the other?”

Seven uniformed bridge workers and other union members in plain clothes on Thursday announced the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association would go on the one-day strike. The group represents ferry boat captains at the Larkspur, Ferry Building and Sausalito terminals.

“This exemplifies why MEBA do not trust the district's current proposals at the negotiating table,” said Dave Nolan, a representative of the association, one of 13 unions that make up the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition.

On a typical weekday, 9,000 people use the ferry service, which together with the bus service take about 25 percent of traffic off the bridge, according to the district.

The major sticking point in negotiations – and reason for a strike by the Machinists Local 1414 on Sept. 16 that did not affect commuters – continues to be health care contributions. Union members say the increased contribution they are being asked to pay whittles down a three percent wage increase each year for the next three years.

“We take our jobs seriously, but we also take our livelihood seriously,” said Robert Barley, 37, a ferry boat captain. “Middle class jobs in the Bay Area are critical and must be saved.”

Coalition co-chair Alex Tonisson claimed that in side-table negotiations, apart from the overarching disagreement over health care contributions, the district was not offering fair compensation for a new training program that ferry boat captains are being asked to teach.

Mulligan said the ferry boat captains asked for “a lot of compensation” for the program in which captains, who are mostly white, work to increase diversity by training deckhands, a large percentage of whom are minorities. The district has reached tentative agreements on all but this aspect of the new contract with captains, he said.

“We think the program has merit and that's why we proposed it,” Mulligan said. “We've been gathering data from other places that do similar programs and we're prepared to sit down and negotiate with them.”

Both sides are scheduled to meet again Monday.

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