Peskin to push Muni salary, budget reform 

A new proposal to overhaul the way Muni has paid its employees for the last 40 years has angered drivers who say they’re being blamed for the fallout of the T-Third light-rail line.

Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said he plans to ask for a charter amendment today that includes a variety of reform measures for the Municipal Transportation Agency.

One of the measures would revoke the agency’s non-negotiable salary formula, which keeps its operators among the highest paid in the country. The proposed charter would make salary a part of contract negotiations, which officials said would put Muni in a better position to bargain on other work-related rules.

Other provisions in the charter amendment include allocating all revenue from The City’s parking garages and meters to the MTA and giving the agency more time to adopt its budget.

"It’s a common-sense reform package," Peskin said Monday. "For environmental reasons, societal reasons, we have to get our hands around this."

Peskin introduced the charter amendment after a troubling week for Muni. The City’s newest light-rail line, the T-Third, went full time and created systemwide delays that left commuters stranded for up to 50 minutes.

Since then, officials have been stressing the agency’s weaknesses, including a $150 million structural deficit and a major driver shortage, both results of budget cuts over the last few years.

Irwin Lum, president of the local Muni union, said he was blindsided by the proposal and that drivers are being scapegoated for problems caused by the T-Third.

"To link our wage formula with how Muni is functioning is totally inappropriate and wrong," Lum said. "There is nothing wrong with the workers in this city earning a decent wage."

The salary formula keeps Muni from being the highest paying transit agency in the nation, but it does put it in the top three.

Lum said Muni is 150 drivers short and hasn’t hired new drivers in three years because of a budget crunch. He said drivers have taken wage freezes and furlough days in recent years.

"The union has understood the financial hardships of The City," he said. "There’s a level of frustration among the ridership right now, but to lay blame on the drivers is the wrong approach."

Transit experts, however, say revoking the salary formula would simply require Muni’s union to negotiate salaries like other city agencies. That would put Muni in a better position to negotiate certain work rules — set by contract or cultural practice — that hurt the agency’s performance, one transportation analyst said.

Peskin’s charter amendment needs the approval of six supervisors before it can go to the voters. The supervisors would have to do so by May 22 to put the charter on the November ballot.

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