Layoffs Among Golden Gate Transit Workers Halted For Now

Kat Schuster

BAY AREA, CA — Transit workers from every corner of the Bay Area who were facing layoffs at Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District will be able to hold on to their jobs for a while longer, officials announced Wednesday.

The Golden Gate district's board voted unanimously Wednesday to reverse the planned layoffs of nearly 150 employees at a special meeting, effective upon a $900 billion federal coronavirus related stimulus bill becoming law.

The district's board voted last month to lay off 146 employees in early January, and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency officials said earlier this month that they would have to lay off roughly 1,000 full-time employees.

The bill, which passed in the House and Senate late Monday, would bring about $14 billion to transit agencies across the country.

But the fate of the stimulus bill was also on shaky ground as President Donald Trump threatened to veto the bill Tuesday, calling it a "disgrace." The president has demanded $2,000 checks for Americans.

Nevertheless, officials have said they are optomistic the president will sign the bill, otherwise, Congress could override his veto.

Although the boost in funding won't be enough to save these agencies from long term financial insecurity, Golden Gate Bridge District General Manager and CEO Denis Mulligan said the district anticipates it will receive enough federal funds from the stimulus bill to offset savings from the layoffs.

But he warned that if transit use does not return to normal levels in the coming months, or if there is not further federal relief, layoffs could be back on the table.

While multiple agencies in the Bay Area used up funding from the CARES Act to keep budgets balanced over the summer and maintain regular service amid plummeting ridership, that funding ran dry within months.

"But that's for another day," he said. "Today we see light at the end of the tunnel."

The board will also rescind the furlough program it approved in November to temporarily reduce pay for mid-managers, deputy general managers, district officers and board members by 10 percent.

The board also announced it will not rescind the $2.1 million severance package that offered laid-off employees four months of medical benefits and severance pay, as some employees have taken advantage of the package.

During the meeting's public comment period, residents, including union leaders and bridge district employees, thanked the board for rolling back the layoffs, especially in advance of the holidays.

Director Brian Sobel, who also chairs the board's Finance-Auditing Committee, said the vote to implement the layoffs was "the toughest decision" current board members have had to make. Wednesday's vote, he said, would allow bridge district workers to breathe a sigh of relief.

"It's a wonderful holiday gift that layoffs can be put off hopefully forever, but at least for a very long time," he said.

More than two dozen agencies were forecast to receive $975 million, but it remains to be seen how much each agency will get, including the district that maintains the Golden Gate Bridge.

"The federal government has prevented the collapse of the public transit systems that have allowed essential workers to keep hospitals and other basic services running during the pandemic," the SFMTA said in a statement. "Even with these funds, we will likely have to continue to tap into our rainy-day reserves to balance the budget."

Bay City News contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on the Mill Valley Patch