Examiner Editorial: No automatic Muni raises in tough times 

Surely nobody could deny that San Francisco public employee unions make out well from collective bargaining. Police, firefighters, SEIU members, etc., all negotiate generous salaries and benefits hard to equal for many private-sector workers.
But one municipal union — Transit Workers Union Local 250-A — automatically keeps its approximately 2,100 Muni vehicle operators among the highest paid nationally without any give-and-take of contract renewals.

A series of San Francisco laws starting more than 50 years ago had the cumulative effect of guaranteeing that wages and benefits for Muni drivers would be no less than the average of the nation’s two transit systems with the highest-paid operators. Currently, that’s $29.19 per hour.

Muni operators also receive an annual “make-good” payment for any difference between the benefits received by the two highest-paid transit operators and what San Francisco pays. This cost $6 million in 2009, and almost $18 million in the past three years.

The make-good fund is divided among operators based on how many hours they were paid for (including sick leave and vacation). Almost 65 percent of operators received the maximum $3,000 allotment last year.

The union says these payments compensate for operators with dependents who receive less health care benefits than other San Francisco employees. But even unmarried operators with no dependents and fully paid health insurance get the full $3,000 if they record enough hours.

It all becomes particularly outrageous when Muni is struggling with a $16.9 million midyear shortfall that must be covered by June 30, meaning the public will again pay more for less service. Even more pain is coming next fiscal year, with a projected $70 million deficit.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd has proposed a City Charter amendment to eliminate the Muni operators’ guaranteed wages/benefits formula and put them at the bargaining table like any other unionized San Francisco employees. Elsbernd brought his amendment to the board’s Rules Committee last week and was told state law mandates any proposed legislative changes to labor agreements must be discussed directly with worker representatives. He did it this week and hopes for a Rules Committee hearing today.

The City cannot afford guaranteed raises during tough times. San Francisco voters passed a law essentially banning public employee strikes in 1976, so avoiding Muni walkouts is largely a nonissue. And the benefits payout was passed in 1967 because Muni said it had trouble hiring enough transit operators — a problem that no longer exists with today’s 10 percent unemployment.

Returning Local 250-A to collective bargaining is especially important now because pay negotiations are the only effective way to get Muni’s outmoded work rules changed and stop throwing away money The City desperately needs.

About The Author

Staff Report

Staff Report

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

Speaking of...

More by Staff Report

Latest in Editorials

© 2018 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation