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Golden Gate Bridge Union Workers Begin Strike Over Health-Care Benefits

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — Union workers began a one-day strike Tuesday morning at the Golden Gate Bridge over the healthcare contributions they say they were promised by theGolden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. Despite the picket lines, however, buses and ferries are running as scheduled.

Golden Gate Bridge Union Workers Begin Strike Over Health-Care Benefits

Bridge workers, mostly from Machinists Local 1414, formed a picket line Tuesday morning on the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, where the buses enter. They were joined by some bridge painters and mechanics.

Members of 13 unions making up the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition came to their decision Monday after union members had voted in August to authorize a strike. There has been no contract settlement in that time.

"Back in 2012, we came to an agreement with the district on health care for retirees and the district is not honoring that agreement and so this really signifies why there's such a lack of trust," Alex Tonisson, co-chair of the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition, told KCBS.

He said retirees are not getting the healthcare coverage that they were promised.

Bridge district General Manager Denis Mulligan told the San Francisco Examiner that the district offers multiple medical plans, with the most expensive—a PPO plan that costs the agency $33,000 annually per family.

As for pay, district officials said they offered a 9 percent increase over thee years but the coalition said that raise would be negated by union members having to pay more for healthcare premiums. They want a 4 percent a year raise.

"Our deckhands are the highest paid in the San Francisco Bay Area," Mulligan told the Examiner. "They make 20 percent more than other union deckhands, and iron workers make 10 percent more than other iron workers."

The picket line is expected to continue until 3:30 p.m. and while ferry and bus operations are not affected, Tonisson said that could change.

"In the future, if these issues are not resolved, there could be an impact on commuters," he said.

The coalition is made up of members from 13 unions that include ferry captains, deckhands, bus servicers, mechanics, ironworkers, inspectors and construction workers.

About 450 union employees have been working without a contract since July.

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