Lesson from Gunnar Lundeberg & Sailors Union of the Pacific

I stopped by Gunnar Lundeberg’s office last week after a meeting of the Golden Gate Bridge Coalition’s bargaining team caucus at the Sailors Union of the Pacific International headquarters. Negotiations with the 19 unions who run our bridge district have not gone well since the contract expired on July 31, 2011. Health care cuts are still on the table and the coalition is continuing to fight on behalf of the members who make this system work. Ferry workers, iron workers, machinists, teamsters, bus drivers, engineers, electricians, etc.

Gunnar is president of the Sailors Union of the PacificĀ and is one if my “bosses,” but he will kick my ass for calling him a boss. He serves on the San Francisco Labor Council Executive Board and is a Vice President of the California Federation of Labor. I don’t get to his office as much as I should. It’s a wonderful art deco tower under the shadows of the Bay Bridge on the east side of the city full, of elegant stone and terrazzo (my union’s work – Brick, Tile, Terrazzo, Marble Local 3).

Gunnar’s office is filled with books and historic pictures of ships and when his assistant let me in he was arguing with some shipping company about a dispatch: “There is nothing in this contract that can deny my member this trip! He wants to work – he goes.” I love to see union reps fighting for their members. He hung up, lit a cigarette and showed me the minutes from a leather bound book of one of his union’s San Francisco meetings from 100 years ago. The Titanic had just sunk and the SUP members were on record as demanding more staffing and lifeboats to prevent the tragedy that their members had suffered and that management had not prepared for.

If we don’t remember our history we will repeat the damage. Downsizing jobs diminishes our communities. Cutting healthcare is a crime. The bottom line when it came to the Titanic was literally the “bottom.” And it took down the Astor’s as well as the sailors.

Thanks, Gunnar, for the reminder.

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