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.

  • “The city still hasn’t changed its spending habits but they want us to give back.”

    Half of what the SFMTA spends is on salaries.

    “People feel we still have the gun to our head about the charter amendment”

    That’s because they do.

  • Two points: 1, it’s clear that TWU’s leadership simply isn’t up to the task of dealing with the public, its own membership, or with the plainly obvious poltical situation we’re in due to the terrible economy. Even when they make good points about those thoroughly discredited work orders, the ineptitude at the top makes htem an easy target.

    2, this obsession with operator pay being somehow the only reason Muni has financial problems is bullshit. There are plenty of reasons, but singling out one class of employee in one department doesn’t solve all the problems. Yes there are work rules that need to be updated for the 21st century, but you could say that about any City department, too. It’s obvious that this hyperfocus is designed by politicians to distract us from the many bad things they’ve done to mismanage in a time of crisis.

    By the way, the SFPD had their pay raised 24% in 2007, and attempts to streamline the SFFD have always been thoroughly trashed. Yet we don’t see polticians like Elsbernd take those folks on, and their pension rules. Why? Because he needs their support when he runs for another office.

    Typical BS politics in the City That Used To Know How.

  • “Yes there are work rules that need to be updated for the 21st century”

    You insult the 20th Century. A lot of those work rules are just plain head-shaking in any century.

    Don’t interpret my prior comment as pointing the finger solely at driver pay packages. I don’t even know enough about their total compensation to be able to make a qualified statement as to whether they are getting a “fair” wage – though my primitive capitalist self says one need only look at employee retention rates to determine if a pay package is “fair” – if it weren’t MUNI would have trouble keeping employees. This is not incompatible with unionization – at some wage point the union bosses cannot keep workers from refusing to strike because they are happy with their pay, and at another wage point the City would accept a strike and replace the workers. There exists a stable middle ground, in theory.

  • The politicos are just using this to bolster some sort of “tough on unions” stand for the next round of elections while they turn their back on the HUGE HUGE HUGE pay raises that fire and police get year after year.

    They need to take out the floor for pay though or else disband the union. What is the point of a union if they don’t negotiate? The only thing the union seems to do well is cash checks. But you really can’t point all the blame at the drivers. You have Nat Ford getting paid twice what he should and that trickles down the middle management who I’d venture to say get paid twice what they should also. The drivers, while probably (slightly) overpaid, are not and should not be the main concern.

    The SFMTA could have set up small funding measures years ago – i.e. a small tax on the downtown businesses for providing a service to get their workers to work, or how about actually raising meter rates and extending hours. Now they backs are against the way and because some drivers are “rude”, they have a punching bag in which to push their political careers a little further on down the road.

    I’m getting to the point were I may just sign off for a while because trying to live car-free in this city seems like a sin. We’d be better off getting a car, paying $76/yr to park it, and not worrying about being treated like 2nd class citizens. I bike on roads that haven’t seen improvements for over three years and I ride transit that is being gutted on a quarterly basis. Tell me how this is a green, transit-first city? Because we provide some plugs for hybrid electric cars in a dense urban environment? Or because we are wasting $1.2 billion to tunnel under a road as to not disrupt the sacred private automobile?

    I need a beer.

  • Nick

    Will the vote even be valid if less than 50% of the membership show up to cast ballots?

    Muni has 2350 operators and 1432 voted last time (60% participation rate).

    I’m gradually giving up on MUNI myself. The free BART service was such a perk. Since they took that away, I can’t justify giving them more money for less. If anything they should have extended the service to the Daly City BART station (it’s literally on top of the city limits. They may have moved the stop forward to justify it being a daly city location…who knows).

  • Andy Chow

    You can’t blame Muni for not able to use your Fast Pass on BART. BART is charging Muni on every trip. It is conceivable that BART could create on its own unlimited use pass on their own. That could foster more frequent use in the urban areas akin to systems in other cities like New York.

    If you live in SF, you pay taxes directly to BART and you get to vote on its board members. Demand that your BART representative to you want BART to be a solution and not a part of the problem, and that BART could and should be used more often as a intra-city rail rather than a long distance commuter rail that is not cost-effective and encourages suburban sprawl.

  • david vartanoff

    @ Andy, yes it IS Muni’s fault. They negotiate the price they pay BART to outsource riders. Muni/SFMTA can also lobby the SF members of the BART Board– they might even get listened to. Muni pays way less than the cost of moving those additional riders, thus it is CHEAPER for Muni to have riders use BART, than ride Muni.

  • Andy Chow

    Muni negotiating with BART is no different than AC Transit negotiating with BART. Wonder why BART Plus tickets are not accepted on AC Transit? AC Transit and Muni are not constituents of BART, nor is the other way around. However, voters in SF and the East Bay are constituency to all of them.

    Voters already paying taxes for BART operation, so regardless of which ticket they use they’re all BART riders.

  • BCon

    mikesonn: I couldn’t agree more.

    The head of the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) makes $198,000 a year. That’s over $100,000 LESS than what Nate Ford makes, yet if you ask me, the CTA is just as extensive and complicated of a system, if not more so, and according to friends and family that live or have lived in the area, it’s much better run. A co-worker that lived and grew up there told me she never waited more than 15 minutes for a bus or train (and that’s when it was late).

    I’m sure they have corruption and incompetence there, too, but at least they can run their system on time, and apparently they’ve found a way to attract “quality” leader ship by only paying them a measly $200k/year.

    http://www.suntimes.com/news/watchdogs/1408610,CST-NWS-watchdog02.article