NEW BEDFORD- New Bedford City Council passed a motion today to go on record in support for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), who is in an ongoing battle with MassDOT over staffing of the New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge.

The dispute began over a proposal by MassDOT to privatize the staffing of the bridge connecting Fairhaven to New Bedford. The proposal, if passed, would bring in employees from out of the area to man the bridge, dismissing the locally sourced workforce currently in place.

The decision by City Council to publicly support the SEIU isn’t just rooted in supporting the workers of New Bedford operating the bridge, but also in practicality. An estimated 90,000 ships travel in and out of the harbor through roughly 5,000 bridge openings per year, making it necessary to have locally-sourced staffing who understand the community. Being the only connection to Fairhaven from New Bedford other than the highway, a community-oriented employee would better understand the flow of shipping and street traffic crossing the bridge, amongst other specifics of the area that would affect its operation.

Attesting to this notion, City Councilor Ian Abreu views the support of the SEIU and New Bedford natives operating the bridge as imperative because of the amount of traffic on the roads combined with that of the harbor. Accounting for the thousands of ships per year along with the daily city traffic, operating one of the two most-used entryways into New Bedford requires knowledge of the small city that is only attainable by living in it.

“Our locally-sourced workforce are the ones who are community invested and they belong working that bridge,” said Abreu. “They understand the waterfront, they understand the way it works and operates.”

The motion will make its way to Beacon Hill to be referred to Governor Charlie Baker, MassDOT officials, and the Massachusetts State and Federal Delegation. Developments in the proposal are expected in the coming months after review from state government.


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