Golden Gate Bridge toller says nonsense it bought off May Day 'Occupy' strike
By Peter Samuel
2012-05-04: Radical threats to rally at the Golden Gate Bridge and close it on May Day fizzled completely. Alex Tonisson chairman of the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition told us this was because they needed a rally and picket line at the ferry terminal instead.
The day before the much ballyhooed action at the bridge Tonisson issued a statement: "As we prepare to take the next step in the fight for quality affordable healthcare for workers, families, and retirees, we ask supporters to stand with us at strike picket lines on May Day, and to keep the bridge open."
The unions headed off efforts by Occupy activists to close the bridge. They did this by moving the protest away to the struck ferry terminal.
The Golden Gate Bridge authority had responded to the announcement of the May Day strike of ferry workers by canceling ferry service for the duration of the strike. There were local reports that the rally and promised direct action on the Bridge itself were called off because of a last minute capitulation by the Bridge on health insurance payments.
But Mary Currie of the Bridge says there was no truth to that.
"We haven't made any concession on that. We haven't even met recently. We're meeting next week," she told us.
And Tonisson whose coalition represents 14 unions with members at the Bridge authority told us the same thing: "That report was wrong. They haven't conceded anything. We still don't have a contract, since the last contract expired June 30 last year."
Tonisson criticized the bridge authority for hiring new non-union staff and for discriminating against union members.
Non-union staff who he said are now about 10% of the total got a 2 percent raise which has been denied to union members, Tonisson told us.
He said there is no longer any disagreement with the Bridge authority over the amount of workers' giveback, just a dispute over how it is given back.
Tonisson told us discontent among union workers is growing and if a contract is not signed soon there are likely to be strikes. He suggested the ferry workers strike was an indication of more industrial action to come.
Ferry workers have been protesting the replacement of ticket agents selling tickets out of a booth by ticket machines.
The term "picket line" seemed a stretch given that the Bridge authority had cancelled ferry service and there was no work to be picketed. About three hundred people rallied at the ferry terminal in a peaceful demonstration. Some paddled kayaks, a kind of Occupy navy?
Local reports quoted an 'Occupy Oakland' organizer as saying: "We were always going to follow the workers' lead and this is what they wanted."
But an 'Occupy San Francisco' person was quoted: "The people who were really pushing for (a closure of the bridge) got pushed back hard," confirming there were those who wanted to disrupt bridge operations but that they were dissauded by union officials like Tonisson.
Occupy's actions seem to have been spread around the Bay Area in a variety of small actions, confrontations with police, otherwise vandalism at banks and other villainous targets of the hard left.
Golden Gate Bridge traffic flowed as usual, augmented slightly perhaps by people driving who might normally have taken ferries.
Otteson on Occupy Day
On Occupy Day the Manhattan Institute published James Otteson, a professor of philosophy at Yeshiva University in New York:
"Capitalism's success at its stated goals has been so enormous and unprecedented that we might easily think that that is all that can be said on its behalf. Rescuing hundreds of millions of people from grinding poverty is, however, nothing to sneeze at--and nothing to take for granted.
"The rest of human history has shown us just how nasty, poor, and brutish the default for human life is; even the twentieth century--that age of democratic enlightenment--has vividly demonstrated how quickly civilization can turn to barbarism.
"Peace, the rule of law, and steadily rising standards of living are the exception, not the rule, and the institutions that uphold them are fragile and require constant maintenance and nurturing.
"But capitalism is part of a larger set of social institutions that has another justification for itself than increasing material prosperity, as important as that is. And that is its presumption of the dignity and preciousness of each individual and the respect that that demands.
"Capitalism assumes that each of us is a free moral agent, capable of leading his own life, of holding his head up, not begging leave or permission before he acts, not subject to correction from his superiors: a citizen, not a subject.
"Capitalism does not suppose that we are infallible; on the contrary, it is because no one is infallible that capitalism denies any of us absolute authority over others' lives. It assumes only that as free moral agents, each of us has authority over himself and that each of us is sovereign over his own life.
"Capitalism is not perfect. But no system created by human beings is, or ever will be, perfect. The most we can hope for is continuing gradual improvement. To this end, we must honestly examine the prospects of the available systems of political economy.
"The benefits of the free enterprise society are enormous and unprecedented; they have meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of millions of people and have afforded a dignity to populations that are otherwise forgotten. We should wish to extend these benefits rather than to curtail them.
"It would be all too easy for us, among the wealthiest people who have ever lived, in one of the richest places on earth, to disdain the institutions that have enabled us to escape the strictures of poverty and disrespect that have plagued humanity for the vast majority of its existence.
"Our crime today, however, would lie not in our inequalities but rather in our refusal to uphold the institutions that give humanity the only hope it has ever known of rising out of its natural state of destitution.
"The great and precious blessings of freedom and prosperity that we Americans have enjoyed, and that some, but not enough, others around the world have also experienced, deserve nothing less."