PERB Denies TWU Request for Injunction Stopping Muni Service Restorations

Photo: Myleen Holero/Orange Photography
Photo: Myleen Holero/Orange Photography

The California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) this afternoon denied a request from the Muni operators union seeking an injunction blocking service restorations that went into effect Saturday. The decision came just hours after SFMTA Chief Nat Ford told the agency’s board of directors the restorations have been a success.

“We are proud to say that we were able to make 99 percent of all the scheduled pullouts for transit services that were scheduled. And I say 99 percent but it was closer to 99.9 percent in terms of service restoration,” said Ford, who credited Muni operators and noted that a majority showed up for work despite the looming threat of a sickout.

“It’s made a significant impact in terms of service quality that our riders so desperately need,” he said.

The agency has now been able to restore about 61 percent of the service it cut in May after identifying about $15 million in funding sources and operational savings. It includes a 10 percent restoration the SFMTA Board voted on in July. Ford announced today that a task force charged with identifying funding to restore the remainder of service by this January will hold its first public meeting this Thursday from 1-3 p.m. in Room 288 at City Hall.

TWU Local-250 A claimed in a grievance (PDF) filed with PERB last Wednesday that the SFMTA “through a series of unilateral actions has committed an unfair labor practice that will result in irreparable harm” to its membership. It claimed the SFMTA did not engage in “good faith and confer efforts” over the service cuts implemented in May, the agency’s new absenteeism policy and the service restorations that were announced August 3.

The union’s leadership was also upset that it was informed about the latest round of service restorations by Streetsblog and not the SFMTA. Despite a meeting with agency representatives the same day the restorations were announced, TWU officials said no one from the SFMTA informed them of the news, which was first announced by the Mayor on KCBS radio.

The changes have meant a juggling of schedules for operators along with cuts in stand-by hours. The grievance sought to have PERB’s lawyers block the restorations along with the absenteeism policy and stand-by hour reductions. TWU’s acting president, Rafael Cabrera, could not be reached for comment.

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose would not comment on the decision except to say that “we remain focused on restoration and finding ways to fully restore service by December.”

“It’s good news,” said Dan Murphy, the chair of the SFMTA’s Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC). “The idea of this all getting tied up in litigation would have been a source of great frustration for riders.”

Murphy said he’ll be watching closely to see whether the service restorations implemented Saturday translate into a dip in Muni’s on-time performance numbers because the agency is “definitely stretching resources.”

The agency’s staff presented a services standard scorecard (PDF) to the SFMTA Board today showing a drop in on-time performance this last quarter when compared to the same quarter last year, from 75 percent to 72.5 percent. Overall, the agency had an on-time performance over the entire year of 73.5 percent, a slight improvement from the previous year’s 73.3 percent.

  • Nick

    This doesn’t mean much to the avarage rider if the entire system fails with regular frequency. Today, for example, the whole subway was shut down from 3-4PM (?) for “unknown reasons.”

    If you’re late to work or an appointment 52 times a year, you start to look unreliable. Have you ever heard “Mayor Newsom was late to a press conference due to MUNI delays”?

  • Chris Reyes

    It was the Union Board members who filed the injunction. Not the drivers who are out driving everyday.

  • Stricter absenteeism policy. Reduced stand-by hours. Essentially, getting operators to do the jobs while we’re paying them so well to do them.

    Also, charging them for parking like everyone should be.

    On the whole, I feel our operators’ well-being should be a priority. I really do. But come on, Union – all I have to say here is, “Waaaaaaaaaahh.”

  • “PERB”

  • Daniel

    Politically, the only thing worse for TWU than losing their request for this injunction would be winning it.

  • “Have you ever heard ‘Mayor Newsom was late to a press conference due to MUNI delays’?”

    All paid city employees, from the Mayor and Supervisors on down, should have to take a bicycle or public transportation to work at least once a week, no excuses allowed. We would see progress quite quickly if this were the case. If Muni isn’t good enough for city employees, how can it be good enough for anyone else? If the streets aren’t safe enough for city employees to bicycle on regularly, how can they be safe enough for anyone else? Also, now that we know the health benefits of taking public transit and biking, such a policy would help lower the city’s health care costs.

    Not even Muni drivers take Muni to work?

    Muni’s previous lax standards on absenteeism were ridiculous, but in any event overtime should not be used to cover absenteeism. Have a number of stand-by workers to cover absentees who can switch to cleaning or maintenance if everyone shows.

  • EL

    taomom – I agree with everything you say about the Muni abuse of absenteeism, sick pay, overtime, etc.

    I do disagree with one point, which is “Not even Muni drivers take Muni to work.” How is an operator in the early morning/late night hours expected to take transit to/from work, when those services don’t really exist? BART isn’t running, and buses run a skeletal OWL schedule only.

  • “How is an operator in the early morning/late night hours expected to take transit to/from work, when those services don’t really exist?”

    Perhaps they should exist?

  • EL

    John Murphy – I don’t understand the comment. Are you suggesting that all transit services should run at night just as they do during the day and disregard ridership levels? Somehow, I don’t think that would be a very efficient allocation of resources (human, infrastructure, equipment, and natural).

  • There is Transbay bus service as well as Muni OWL Service. Especially when supplemented with a bike, it is very doable.

  • Alex

    So the OWL service is good enough for the plebs but not for the bus drivers? Right-o.

    Take a gander at the Local 250A web site. Last I checked they advertised booze and free parking at their events. I expect it’s less a matter of insufficient late night service and more a matter of the TWU knowing full well how lousy their service is.

  • Ryan

    The fact of the matter is that if muni isn’t good enough for the people who run it, for any reason, then it isn’t good enough for the rest of us. And I think John Murphy is saying that late night service should be much better, which it should be.

    It’s embarassing that a major urban center like sf, a ‘green’ city, leaves you effectively stranded when bars start closing. Your options are: 1) drive if you can afford it as well as the DUI fines. 2) take a taxi, if you can find on AND afford it. 3) take an infrequent owl bus to limited destinations.

    Frankly, I don’t like any of those. SF isn’t transit-oriented, it’s just inacessible.

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