On the Picket Line

Alcatraz ferryboat workers rally for a contract

By Eric Simpson
May 15, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO — Alcatraz Island ferryboat crews have organized a union and are fighting for a contract, 16 years after Hornblower Cruises took over the service and drove the union out. They held a spirited rally at Pier 33 here April 16 to counter the ferry company’s attempt to divide and weaken the union.

The company is trying to remove ship captains and maintenance supervisors from the bargaining unit, claiming their jobs are “management.” The Inlandboatmen’s Union, part of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, is fighting for the entire crew to be in the union, from snack bar clerks to the deckhands and captain, as well as maintenance workers and ticket sellers.

The real managers, those with the ability to hire, fire and set schedules, are sitting on their behinds in offices at the ferry terminal.

“It’s not about money for me, it’s about fairness. We want equal benefits for all the workers and a big wage increase for the lower-paid workers,” Brian Dobruck, a ship captain and a leader of the organizing drive, told the Militant.

“And schedule is an issue. They give us our schedule at the beginning of each week and assume everyone can work any days and hours. It makes it hard for workers with families to plan. And we want regular pay increases.” Dobruck was carrying a sign saying, “Captains are workers.”

“It’s really important about the captains,” Tyler Brown, a union member who works as a deckhand on the Blue and Gold line, said. “I have my captain’s license and would like to be able to bid on that job without leaving the union.”

The Inlandboatmen’s Union won a certification election last October.

“Organizing is important for the working class,” Mike Villeggiante, an executive board member of ILWU Local 10, told the Militant at the rally. “We have always supported the Alcatraz workers’ organizing efforts. Without a union, you don’t have anything.”