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Possible Golden Gate Bridge District Strike Would Cripple Commute

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The Bay Area is bracing for the possibility for another commute-crippling transit strike, this time involving workers with the Golden Gate Bridge District.

"Right now I'm saying there is a real possibility there will be another strike," Alex Tonisson of the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition.

If there is a strike, it will likely start with Golden Gate Bridge District ferry operators, just as it did in 2012.

"We hope to avoid a strike. We think it's incredibly detrimental to our customers. And so, we're working with the unions and we hope that we can reach an amicable settlement," said Dennis Mulligan, General Manager of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District

Only this time, it could be a lot worse.

The district's buses would be expected to pick up the slack during a strike. But thanks to a wave of retirements, vacations and absenteeism, the bus service is having a hard time even meeting its current schedule. Even if they had enough drivers on paper, there is a good chance the bus drivers would stay off the job as well.

"Yes, it's possible that we would go on strike and the entire ferry and bus system would get shut down this time," Tonisson said.

That could affect bus riders from Santa Rosa to San Francisco.

"Traffic would be a mess. So it's something we don't want to see happen," Mulligan said.

As in 2012, the issue is money. Ferry boat captains make about $85,000 a year, while deckhands make about $50,000, plus benefits.

Bridge management is offering a 3 percent a year raise, but wants workers to kick in two percent more for their health care, something the union is calling a shell game.

"A 3 percent raise turns out not to be that at all, even though that's what they are telling the public," Tonisson said.

The union wants a 3.75 percent raise, and is willing to make a 0.5 percent hike in health care contributions for one year, something the district said it can't afford.

"We have financial limits and it's not fair to our rate payers just to indiscriminately go along with any desire people have," Mulligan said.

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