Examiner Editorial: It’s Muni riders’ turn to fix cushy work rules 

The rank-and-file members of Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents some 2,220 Muni operators, kept up their unbroken record of saying “drop dead” to San Francisco’s Muni riders, taxpayers and the majority of city employees. For the second time this year, they defied union leaders and voted “no” on a much-needed package of concessions and work-rule reforms.

By voting 747-538 to reject the $19 million in concessions, the operators directly sentenced Muni’s long-suffering passengers to endure longer waits for more-crowded buses and light-rail trains. The only hope for reversing Muni’s latest 10 percent service cuts was Local 250-A’s tentative deal.

If ever there was a textbook example of cutting off your nose to spite your face, the Muni operators’ refusal to help the San Francisco transit agency overcome next fiscal year’s $53 million deficit is it. The operators have likely put the final kiss of death on their special payment package — whose continuation will likely depend on city voters.

Local 250-A enjoys The City’s only union exemption from collective bargaining. The operators receive automatic annual raises calculated by a formula guaranteeing them America’s second-highest transit operator wages. It’s currently $27.92 per hour, before the next automatic annual raise (budgeted at $9 million) starts July 1.

Apparently, many Muni operators are convinced they are unappreciated, hassled by the public and unfairly blamed for top-management mistakes. There’s no arguing that driving a bus through the streets of San Francisco is demanding, high-pressure work. But the operators also enjoy some uniquely self-serving work rules.

They are allowed to be absent without notice and still collect overtime for the week. The transit agency is barred from hiring part-timers or splitting shifts to cover peak commute hours, which creates pointless costs for overtime and midday standby operators.

Muni could save a much-needed $3.1 million per year merely by plugging payroll leaks like these, according to a Budget Analyst’s Office audit.

Muni operators could lose their privileged status as soon as this November if Supervisor Sean Elsbernd and SPUR, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, succeed in gathering 70,000 signatures by July 1 to qualify a City Charter amendment for the ballot. Elsbernd told The Examiner that the petition drive is on track to qualify if the present pace of collecting signatures continues.

However, the final weeks of a petition drive are always the toughest, because many sympathizers have already signed. Readers who want to help get this measure on the ballot should visit www.fixmuninow.com. You can find out where and when the signature gatherers will show up next, obtain a copy of the petition to distribute and much more.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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