Mayor Newsom Slams Muni Union Leaders Again, Decries Work Rules

F_line_small.jpgPhoto: Myleen Hollero/Orange Photography.
Keeping with his public recriminations of TWU Local 250-A, the union representing Muni operators, Mayor Gavin Newsom launched into a tirade today after a press conference, decrying the leadership of the union for "misleading" the rank-and-file. Newsom called the second rejection of wage concessions a mistake and said the entire workforce would be affected by the selfishness of a few at the top.

Newsom had been discussing the various concessions made by other public service unions with reporters when he volunteered his opinion on TWU: "These guys have no respect for reality," he said. "What they're doing is thumbing their nose in the face of every other public employee in this city that has stepped up to preserve services and preserve jobs. They're saying no, we're better than you, we're special, we don't need to do this."

Newsom said several members of TWU's Executive Board should be ashamed of themselves, "one in particular," who did "everything to undermine this." He didn't elaborate on which board member, however.

Rather than point fingers at the Board of Supervisors, as he did last week, or call for a re-vote in the union, Newsom seemed resigned to let voters have their say in November, when a voter initiative to strip operator pay, benefits and work rules provisions from the City Charter could be on the ballot. He urged every San Franciscan to sign the petition to qualify the measure and vowed it would pass with an overwhelming majority.

When Chronicle reporter Rachel Gordon asked the Mayor if he had signed the petition himself, he admitted he hadn't. "I helped draft it," he said. "I say helped, meaning [Chief of Staff] Steve Kawa in my office was very much involved with a deliberative process with the supervisor to make sure that we were all on the same page in terms of what this initiative called for."

As he got in to the specifics of the ballot measure and its impact, he said he was more concerned with work rules than he was about collective bargaining for salary.

"The collective bargaining component, to me, was always de minimus, it wasn't that important, because you can collectively bargain and you're gonna end up marking to market, which means you're not going to dramatically change the wage schedule," he said.

But by changing the work rules, the agency would be able to realize efficiencies that would save service and keep fares stable, he argued.

Despite the rhetoric, though, he didn't provide specifics about if or when service would be restored, a fundamental concern of the Board of Supervisors and one that could preempt a drawn out battle over rejecting Muni's budget. The supervisors have threatened to reject any budget that doesn't restore service.

Had the operators accepted the wage concessions, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which runs Muni, would have saved $18.7 million over two years, which the SFMTA said it would use to reverse a recent ten-percent service cut in part by September 4 and in full by summer 2011.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, one of the primary authors of the ballot measure, has been out collecting signatures with an increasingly visible cadre of volunteers at BART stations and public events.

Elsbernd recently told Streetsblog they would collect signatures to qualify the measure regardless of any vote by the union.

Appointment of Board Members

On a different tack, Newsom admitted he was still struggling to find a second person to appoint to the SFMTA's Board of Directors, which has been short two members since the end of April.

While he said he had chosen one member from the public who had applied to be on the board, he wasn't having luck with candidates he had been targeting for appointment.

"I'm 0 for 2 with the two people that I wanted," he said. "One had a conflict that we couldn't deal with, one said they prefer their existing life and they don't want to actually do this. I'm still trying to find that final person."

When asked if he would consider appointing one member while searching for the last, to prevent further cancellations of Board Meetings for failure to attain quorum, Newsom said he would likely take that course of action and make that announcement shortly.