Muni Operator Wage Measure Now Official

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A ballot measure that would change the way Muni operator wages and benefits are set now has an official name and summary from the City Attorney's Office.

The measure [PDF], titled "Setting Transit Operator Wages Through Collective Bargaining," would do just that: instead of the current City Charter provision requiring the MTA to set operator wages at the average rate of the two highest paying transit agencies in the country, salaries would be set entirely through collective bargaining.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd and the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) drafted the measure and must collect 70,000 signatures by July 6 to get it on the November ballot. They can begin gathering those signatures as soon as they publish the title and summary of the measure in a major newspaper.

"We are getting ready to take the next step in a major effort to improve the management of Muni, by asking voters to place a reform measure on the November ballot," said SPUR Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf. "Our goal is to be on the street collecting signatures by April 1."

The measure's supporters argue it would not only lead to more manageable operator costs, but would also give the MTA leverage to negotiate work rules that could curb widespread absenteeism. Irwin Lum, President of Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents Muni operators, has argued that the current charter provision has led to over 40 years of labor peace.

Here's the full summary of the measure, straight from the City Attorney's office:

  • Allow the City to set Muni operator wages and benefits through collective bargaining, and eliminate the requirement that Muni operator wages be at least as high as the average wage rate for transit operators in the two highest paying comparable transit systems.
  • Eliminate the transit operator trust fund and any City payments into it.
  • Make incentive bonuses for the MTA Director and "service critical" MTA managers and employees optional instead of required.
  • Require binding arbitration when the MTA and employee unions representing Muni operators are unable to agree in collective bargaining.
  • Set rules for arbitration proceedings regarding MTA employees. The arbitrators would consider the impact of disputed proposals on Muni fares and service and on the ability of MTA management to schedule and assign transit employees according to riders' service needs. And employee unions representing transit employees would have to justify any proposal that would restrict the MTA's flexibility in deciding schedules, staffing, assignments or the number of part-time time personnel.
  • Provide that past practices and "side letters" would not bind the City regarding terms of employment for MTA employees, unless the MTA Board or Director has approved them in writing and included them in the affected employees' collective bargaining agreements.