Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Transportation & Infrastructure
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Published on May 26, 2024
Alcatraz City Cruises Workers Strike in San Francisco Amidst Summer Tourism SeasonSource: Alen Ištoković, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As summer tourism kicks into gear, Alcatraz City Cruises workers are hitting the picket lines in San Francisco. Striking for better contracts, the unionized workers who operate the ferry services to Alcatraz Island abruptly halted operations Saturday morning, drawing the attention of tourists and city officials alike. According to NBC Bay Area, the workers are protesting "unfair labor practices" and a stall in negotiations that have dragged on for over a year.

The strike's timing coincides with Memorial Day weekend, typically the start of a bustling season for the region's tourism industry. Alcatraz, a draw for more than 1.5 million visitors annually, was caught in a standoff that saw its ferry services put on a four-hour hold. Aiming to resume operations quickly, Alcatraz City Cruises was forced to clear their boats as the workers took their stance at Pier 33, as reported by NBC Bay Area. Nonetheless, services commenced post-noon, but union president Robert Estrada warned that a full strike is not out of the question.

Amidst the struggle, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin was present to back the union workers, saying, "This is a working people’s waterfront. It has been for a hundred years, and it is time for Alcatraz Cruises to stop stalling," as per NBC Bay Area. Estrada has expressed frustration at the lack of progress in discussions with Alcatraz City Cruises management, particularly regarding responding to the union's economic package proposals.

The unionized employees who joined the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific in late 2022 are seeking higher wages, dependable work schedules, and improved benefits. A stark sentiment was shared by Erik Anfinson, a ferry captain and longtime employee, who told The Standard, "We do not have a pension. The scheduling has been horrible. I’ve been here 17 years and it’s been very difficult to know when we are on or off because the schedule isn’t made out way in advance." Anfinson's testimony underscores the hardships these workers face, navigating uncertain schedules that challenge personal life planning.

Meanwhile, Alcatraz City Cruises, part of Hornblower Group, seems determined to stay the course. In a statement obtained by NBC Bay Area, a spokesperson said, "We are disappointed the union would threaten our passengers, partners and the community with a potential disruption of those services. Please take comfort that this will have no impact on our operations." The Standard mentioned a letter sent by the company to employees, noting their readiness to replace any worker who participates in the strike—a move interpreted by the union as a stark contradiction to the company's professed concern for its staff.

With negotiations set to resume on June 4, the city waits to see whether Alcatraz City Cruises will sail toward an agreement or if the union will be compelled to raise the anchor on further strike action. Commuters and tourists alike hope an amicable resolution can be found as quickly as boats need to make their way across San Francisco's treasured bay waters. 

Editor' note: The date of Unionization was misstated as last year, but it occurred in 2022.