No sign of Muni operator unrest day after new contract imposed 

Tensions remain high between Muni’s management and its operators union, but there was no evidence of labor strife Tuesday, and agency and union leaders say they are hopeful that no work stoppages are planned.

On Monday, an independent arbitrator imposed a three-year contract between the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents about 2,000 Muni operators.

The binding ruling came less than a week after the union’s members voted resoundingly to reject the same contract agreement. It will take effect on July 1.

Union members said they would strike in protest of the contract agreement, which is projected to secure $41 million in labor savings over three years. Local 250-A Secretary-Treasurer Walter Scott said some drivers believe SFMTA management now has too much control over the disciplinary and grievance process, and that some provisions of the new contract attack their dignity.

Despite such misgivings, however, Scott said he knew of no plans to engage in a strike or a sick-out.

Tuesday’s Muni workday seemed to support that assertion. Only 31 operators called in sick for the morning commute, a normal absentee rate, agency spokesman Paul Rose said.

SFMTA Executive Director Nathaniel Ford said the agency is monitoring the situation. And although he acknowledged that tensions were high, he remained optimistic that operators would continue to do their jobs.
If evidence suggests some drivers are participating in a “sickout,” Ford added, they will face appropriate disciplinary measures. It is illegal under the agency’s contract for the workers to strike.

Yet Ford conceded that there would be little his agency could do to lessen the impact if drivers went on an unauthorized wildcat strike.

“We carry 700,000 passengers each day,” Ford said. “You can’t have a contingency plan that suddenly addresses the transit needs of 700,000 passengers.”

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Will Reisman

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