Arbitrator rules San Francisco Muni contract must stand 

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  • Getty Images file photo

Just days after Muni operators overwhelmingly rejected a tentative contract agreement, an independent arbitrator has imposed the terms of the pact with the transit agency. But whether the ruling will lead to labor peace is not yet clear.

In a written decision, Judge Carol Vendrillo wrote that the three-year contract’s conditions are “the best resolution of these protracted labor negotiations and are in the best interests of both the parties and the riding public.”

The negotiations went to arbitration after members of Transport Workers Union Local 250-A voted by a two-to-one margin last week to reject the proposed agreement.

Earlier this year, union members granted their president the power to authorize a strike. Union representatives planned to hold a special meeting Monday night to discuss the arbitration’s outcome.

Union Secretary-Treasurer Walter Scott said that while the meeting was not scheduled to approve a strike, members might discuss such action.

Officials familiar with the situation said only a small portion of operators are seriously considering a strike. Yet union President Rafael Cabrera pointedly noted in a statement that many members are “very wary” of the agreement.

“The battle is just beginning over grievance procedures, work and safety rules,” Cabrera said. “Our union will have to watch these managers like hawks.”

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency officials declined to discuss contingency strategies for any work stoppage. Under the operators’ current contract, strikes are barred, and City Attorney Dennis Herrera has said any intentional work stoppage would be illegal.

An agency statement looked forward to the contract’s July 1 adoption.

“This new contract will restore SFMTA’s ability to efficiently and effectively schedule transit services, and will reduce the cost of built-in overtime and standby pay by using part-time operators,” lead negotiator Debra Johnson said.

The pact also will let Muni dismiss unlicensed drivers and gain increased control over the employee disciplinary process.

Muni also again revised the estimated savings from the pact. Its latest estimate is that it expects to save as much as $41 million over three years. Past estimates ranged from $21 million to $46 million.

Even with the arbitrator’s supposedly binding decision, the fight between management and labor continues. The union has filed state and federal lawsuits to stop the implementation of Proposition G, a voter-backed initiative that gave management greater negotiating leverage. If the union’s federal claim is upheld, more than $2 billion in funding for SFMTA projects could be in jeopardy.

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