Muni Operators Likely to Vote Again on Cost-Saving Proposal This Week

27696367_92ec5d8d50.jpgMuni operators rejected a concessions proposal by a 60-40 ratio last week, but could vote again before Friday. Flickr photo: Thomas Hawk
Muni operators may vote again on a package of concessions in time for Friday's MTA Board budget vote, just a week after resoundingly voting down such a measure.

Irwin Lum, President of Transport Workers Union Local 250A, which represents Muni operators, told Streetsblog he's in conversations with all parties involved, and will be meeting with members today to discuss a possible re-vote on a proposal similar to the one rejected last week.

"I'm meeting with our people today to find out what we can do. There's no doubt in our minds that our people have to do something."

Lum said TWU members still have many of the same concerns that lead them to reject the original proposal by an 857-575 margin.

The proposal would have saved the MTA nearly $15 million over two years by requiring operators to make a one-time payment into their retirement accounts next year, temporarily reducing overtime pay and certain health benefits, and other short-term givebacks. It would also mean fewer fare increases, fewer service cuts and fewer operator layoffs.

But Lum said members still want assurances that the givebacks would be temporary, and that the MTA would keep its word on limiting the service cuts and fare increases. TWU members also want to see greater progress on work orders, he said. "The city still hasn't changed its spending habits but they want us to give back."

"People feel that it's still a big deal," he added.

Further complicating matters, said Lum, is a proposed ballot measure that would remove a charter provision setting Muni operator salaries at the average of the two-highest paying transit agencies in the country. Supervisor Sean Elsbernd has reintroduced the measure after withdrawing it temporarily before the last TWU vote.

"People feel we still have the gun to our head about the charter amendment," said Lum. "That doesn't help the situation. You give back, but we're going to get bombarded later again."

SPUR Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf, who's working on the charter amendment proposal along with Elsbernd and other parties, said he's advancing the reform measure because he doesn't believe the concession proposal would have enough impact on Muni's operations in the long term.

"I think it's great that TWU leadership is having conversations with the rank and file members about what the union can do to help Muni," Metcalf said. "But this particular deal does so little to balance the budget, it's not worth putting a lot of energy into."

With or without operator concessions, the MTA Board will vote Friday on measures to close a $16.9 million end-of-year budget gap. If TWU members approve the proposal, it would help the MTA close about $2 million of that gap, reducing service cuts and likely preventing an increase in the price of the senior/youth/disabled Fast Pass price from $20 to $30.

It would also reduce next year's projected $50 million budget deficit by about $13 million, though much of that savings would be offset by reduced service cuts and fare increases.