Proposition G and the Fix Muni Syndrome

Photo: Myleen Hollero/Orange Photography
Photo: ##http://www.orangephotography.com/##Myleen Hollero/Orange Photography##

As the November election draws near and the bunkers are dug on either side of San Francisco’s Proposition G, the Fix Muni Now ballot measure spearheaded by Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, the rhetoric is escalating, with Mayor Gavin Newsom, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Editorial Board and Elsbernd on one side decrying Muni operators for taking raises during a recession, while the San Francisco Bay Guardian and the Muni operators union have focused on Elsbernd, implying he’s a racist pawn of downtown business interests on a mission to erode the power of unions.

While the acrimony is likely to increase, it is unclear just how far Proposition G will go toward “fixing” Muni. If the measure passes, it will eliminate the City Charter provision guaranteeing Muni operators’ salary and benefits are pegged at the average of the top two transit agencies in the country. It would also compel Transit Workers Union (TWU) Local 250-A, which represents Muni operators, to re-write its memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the agency, likely removing a number of work rules and side letters, or components of a contract agreed to by both sides that make stipulations for parking perks, absenteeism and sick-day policies, among others.

“I think that it’s plain good governance to not have a minimum salary set in a charter,” said Dave Snyder, organizer for the Muni Transit Riders’ Union, which has not taken a position on the measure. Snyder noted that even a competing Muni ballot measure proposed by some on the Board of Supervisors and supported by the TWU eliminated the charter provision. That measure never made the ballot, though, as Board President David Chiu voted against it in a compromise with Mayor Gavin Newsom on the city’s budget.

Snyder cautioned against believing that the ballot measure would transform Muni overnight. “Taking the salary calculation out of the charter is not going to make sure all the buses leave the yard on time, all the time,” he said. Though he stopped short of saying the phrase “Fix Muni Now” was misleading, he said the public shouldn’t be confused about the limitations of the measure.

Even one of Proposition G’s co-sponsors acknowledged the measure wouldn’t fix Muni. “It’s important not to oversell Prop G. Yes, it’s absolutely necessary, but it won’t fix Muni,” said Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), which also helped pass Propositions E and A to merge Muni with the Department of Parking and Traffic to create the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and then to increase its autonomy from the Board of Supervisors.

Metcalf said Proposition G was merely one part of SPUR’s larger SFMTA reform agenda, but a necessary step toward delivering better transit service. “Prop G is not the first step in improving Muni and it’s not the last step either,” he said. “We have in the last 10 years done a long list of things to try to get San Francisco the kind of transit system it deserves.”

Supervisor Elsbernd disagreed, saying the measure would fix Muni and arguing management at the SFMTA has its hands tied because of the charter guarantees. “I think that [Proposition G] will absolutely improve Muni and free up dollars that are currently not going to service,” he said. Elsbernd noted If the measure passes, negotiators with the SFMTA would likely start preparing for collective bargaining for a new contract with the TWU, given that the current contract expires at the end of June, 2011.

Without the charter rules, said Elsbernd, the SFMTA would immediately save $16 million if it eliminates the trust fund it has set up to pay drivers when their benefits don’t meet the second highest national benefits package and it doesn’t have to give the operators the scheduled raise next year. He also estimated eliminating a number of work rules would save the agency at least $10 million more annually.

Elsbernd highlighted language in Proposition G that he said “was one of the best parts of the measure,” where in the case of arbitration over contract impasse, the arbitrator would be required to consider how the contract would impact Muni service. If the SFMTA felt the arbitrator had not sufficiently addressed the impact of a work rule or salary provision on Muni’s service, the SFMTA could take the issue to court, where a judge would preside over the dispute.

“This should be about making service better, not about making a union happy,” said Elsbernd. “Why in the world should we provide transit service where service is not the most important priority? [Proposition G] gives the riders a seat at the table and the city is there to defend them.”

While TWU President Irwin Lum said the charter provision for their salary had been “working well since 1968,” he said the union supported removing it and bargaining collectively. He bristled, however, at the arbitration language and said it handicapped the union from the start in any negotiation, tipping the balance to management before they’d even sat down at the table. “No other city employee union has it where it tells the negotiator or arbitrator” to account for how the contract would affect the service the membership provides, such as police officer pay tied to crime reductions.

Lum said the ballot measure was little more than “a blame game,” that it deflects attention away from failures at the management level. He also said it wouldn’t compensate for the lack of political will from the SFMTA Board and the Mayor’s Office to come up with a dedicated funding stream for Muni, such as transit tax assessment district. “All it will do is make drivers seem like the only reason why Muni doesn’t perform better.”

He said the SFMTA could stop paying work orders to other agencies, which have increased significantly since the passage of Proposition A in 2007, and the agency would save over $60 million a year, far more than would be saved if Proposition G passes.

Lum also criticized SFMTA CEO Nat Ford’s salary, which, at more than $300,000 base, is the highest of any city official, and compared it to the salaries the operators receive. “At $27.91 an hour, that wage is not over and above Bay Area transit wages,” said Lum “We’re not overpaid and we’re not underpaid. It’s a living wage.” He lamented that voters didn’t have the same opportunity in the measure to vote on Ford’s salary or other members of his executive staff and assumed the public would not pay them as much if they had the option.

According to SFMTA figures, Muni’s 2,000 operators make a combined $200 million in salaries and benefits, while the 100 managers that make up the Municipal Executive Association make $20 million in salaries and benefits. The agency’s annual operating budget this fiscal year is approximately $750 million.

Metcalf declined to say what he thought the senior executives should make, but he noted current salaries are comparable to the industry standard. Dorothy Dugger, BART’s General Manager, made nearly $350,000 in 2009, while John Inglish, head of the Utah Transit Administration, which is much smaller than the SFMTA or BART, made the same last year. Metcalf also said he didn’t think the operators’ salaries would plummet if Proposition G passed.

Metcalf and Snyder argued once the contract was negotiated, the real work would begin, both to improve cooperation between management and the operators’ union, and to identify a steady source of funding for Muni over the long run. There are numerous revenue generating actions the SFMTA board of directors could take to bring in more money, but the body has so far not pursued them. Extending parking meter hours on evenings and Sundays, for instance, was projected to generate $10 million annually, but the board has dropped the idea.

While Sacramento appears willing to leave the state diesel tax alone this year [pdf], sending hundreds of millions in money to transit agencies across the state instead of using the money to backstop the general fund, there is no guarantee the raids won’t resume under a new governor (unless state Proposition 22 passes). The SFMTA had been deprived of nearly $180 million in state money over the past three fiscal years.

“[Proposition G] is necessary, but a lot more is going to have happen. Management and workers are going to need to work together to create a culture where everyone is working toward the same goals of providing great transit service,” said Metcalf. “We’re going to have to do a lot of hard stuff after this, too.”

  • patrick

    Prop G is not sufficient to fix muni, but it is necessary.

  • Alex

    Of course the so-called riders’ union hasn’t taken a position on Prop G. They’ve got the TWU’s Irwin Lum on their governance board. Not only do the drivers have a highly effective union of their own, they’ve created another one under the premise of being a group of transit riders. What an underhanded, dishonest trick. Pay no mind to the man behind the curtain. The more that streetsblog tries to legitimize the so-called Transit Riders’ Union, the more they do a disservice to people who actually (need to) use MUNI.

    While Lum is right, $27/hr is not exorbitant pay at all. Not in the Bay Area. But, save for those who don’t read past the headlines, base pay has never been the issue. The work rules with unnecessary inefficiency baked in *ARE* the issue. The TWU’s complete and utter unwillingness to negotiate is the issue. That Lum doesn’t negotiate in good faith and does not make any effort to present the MTA’s proposals to rank and file is the issue. That the TWU is loathe to axe obscene perks (like non-driving positions for senior member) is nearly criminal.

  • turtles

    “”It’s important not to oversell Prop G. Yes, it’s absolutely necessary, but it won’t fix Muni,” said Gabriel Metcalf, SPUR

    …then why is SPUR paying for printed materials that say “Fix Muni Now”…?

    Seems a bit disingenuous to be saying one thing, while acknowledging it’s not true…

  • Brandon

    Elsbernd is anti-Union because he wants a collective bargaining unit to collectively bargain? Seems to me like he will be giving the TWU a reason to exist.

  • @Alex: I think the point with the Transit Riders’ Union is that transit in SF shouldn’t be a drivers vs riders, zero-sum game. As I rider, I agree we’ve been getting the short end of the stick for a while with MUNI. But I hope we can see improvements in MUNI facilities and service without thinking of them as a pound of flesh we have to extract from drivers.
    I’m all for strong unions and living wages. I think the very existence of a Transit Riders’ Union with Lum on the board creates space where drivers & riders can find common ground and make changes happen in the system that benefit all of us. Think of it as a countervailing force to politicians using MUNI as a political football and piggy bank (and holding the drivers up as a scapegoat).

  • Mick

    Sasha

    No, I agree with Alex here. The agenda of any union is only the pay, benefits, conditions and job security of their workers. Anything else they say is just lip service to that over-riding cause. so it really is us against them. Or rather, everyone against them.

    And there is little question in mind that the pay and benefits of muni workers are out of control, and until that changes muni’s finances will never be straight.Nor are any negotiations with the union ever going to yield emaningful concessions – they will just dig their heels in.

    We need to take unilateral action to clip the union’s wings and this proposition is just a first small step.

    Snyder has always struck me as a lightweight anyway but now when given a golden opportunity to grow a spine, he fudged. I am voting for this puppy whatever he says but he really should jump off the fence.

  • Alex

    @Sasha: I’m all for finding common ground, and, quite frankly, I’m all for a safe working environment. That said, the drivers have their own dedicated, professional representation. We as riders have NOTHING that puts us as riders first. Zip, zilch, nada.

    It’s already an extremely uneven playing field, and the so-called riders’ union has already ducked any number of ways to advocate for riders. With the TWU calling the shots at the so-called riders’ union, things get taken off the table preemptively in an effort to appease the TWU.

    Quite frankly, having Lum on board does nothing to improve the spirit of cooperation. Look at the riders’ rally that was overwhelmed by the TWU. The drivers promote their agenda in direct opposition to the riders. Look at the discourse that the drivers promote:

    – They rally against stop consolidation (which would preserve their pay and improve service)
    – They rally against stop and route reorganization (TEP, which would also preserve their pay and improve service)
    – They rally against having cameras on board vehicles to record and track crime
    – They rally against dynamic reassignment of LRV vehicles (which would dramatically improve service and cost the drivers NOTHING)
    – They’ve called for eliminating 311 and thus eliminating 24×7 MUNI customer service

    Hell, at that pro-TWU rally Eric Williams spouted off about how there shouldn’t even be a line item in the MTA budget for telecommunication. The drivers have a long and storied history of trying to dominate the discourse and guide it in anti-rider direction. So when I see the so-called transit riders’ union refuse to come out with any sort of position on MTA issues… no… I don’t think that Lum’s position on the so-called riders’ union is in good faith. Show me one example of solidarity with the riders that the drivers have demonstrated. The TWU has framed it as a drivers versus everyone else issue, and having Lum pull the strings at the so-called riders’ union won’t change that.

    In fact streetsblog had an entry a while back about how Lum did not make any effort to present an MTA proposal to the drivers before the scheduled vote. He’s also gone on to support MTA proposals in the press and rally against them behind closed doors. What part of that screams good faith or cooperation? Lum is, in essence, a career politician who is skilled at talking out of both sides of his mouth. Lum on the so-called riders’ union is tantamount to the TWU providing a trojan horse (granted, it’s a very poorly disguised horse, but it seems to have suckered at least a few people).

    I’m not calling for a pound of flesh to be extracted from the drivers, I’m calling out the illegitimate so-called riders’ union. I’m calling for proper rider advocacy. And I’m calling for the TWU to stop aligning itself orthogonally to the riders.

  • Would dynamic reassignment of LRV’s be allowed without compensation under Prop G? I see that as something that would really increase service. As a former SFSU student and resident who has watched empty one-car J’s arrive one after the other at Montgomery, while waiting for any dang packed Twin Peaks train, I view dynamic reassignment as a priority.

  • Besides the good governance common sense of taking salary determinations out of the charter, I believe it is critical to be able to hire part-time drivers to provide peak hour services (morning and evening commutes) rather than burn public dollars on full-time employees with nothing to do in the middle of the day.

    Mailed in my Yes on G ballot (with Yes on B too – because there’s nothing progressive about cutting services for the poor and handing the bills to our children for retirees pensions and their dependents’ health care)

  • Alex

    @GoGregorio I think pretty much anyone who uses the metro would see dynamic reassignment as a priority. No idea what effect Prop G will have on it since the MTA doesn’t (I think) publish the side letters. I only used it as an example of the TWU taking an anti-rider stance for the sake of taking an anti-rider stance.

    Honestly, while the reassignment premium does bother me, the fact that drivers can refuse reassignments bothers me more. This almost makes sense for bus routes, but for fixed guideway routes? Not at all. The city would benefit greatly by having drivers intimately familiar with San Francisco (and thus capable of driving on any route that needed drivers).

    In London black cabbies are held to an extremely high standard and are expected to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the town before being granted their license. I’ve been told that brain scans have revealed differences in how their brains operate. One can only dream of the day that the MTA holds its drivers to such high standards.

  • Dave Snyder

    Maybe I didn’t say “fix Muni now” was misleading, but it is. It won’t. Muni needs better management and greater accountability of management and operators. There are “bad apples” among both and not enough ability to root them out of the bushel. Changing the operators’ labor contract will help, and this measure will help to do that, but I don’t like the rhetoric behind it that implies operators’ benefits and rules are the major reason Muni is not as reliable as it should be.

    To digress a minute with my own personal opinion on city worker’s pay and benefits… as a society we need to consume less yet we can’t exacerbate poverty, so the only solution is to reduce the gap between rich and poor. That means that some of the most richly-paid in this country, including some SF city employees, ought to take salary reductions. Adachi’s measure B doesn’t target just the highly paid city employees, but all of them, so I think that’s unfair. The front-line workers, including a majority (but not all) of the transit operators should not have to suffer any cuts.

    Back to directly on topic, @Alex, we also have SPUR on our steering committee. Sasha’s speculation is correct: we want to be a place where different groups can come together and work on solutions that we all agree on, for which there is insufficient support right now: more transit-priority, more taxes (on those who can most afford it) for more transit.

    And I do think that we can’t fix Muni with a demoralized and angry and alienated workforce. Driving a transit vehicle is incredibly hard work which nevertheless calls for a level of cheerfulness toward your passengers if you want to be the best. I may argue with operators about this or that work rule, and we may not be able to agree, but I want to be on the same side in making Muni the best it can be.

  • Will prop G fix muni? Of course not. It’ll certainly reform and improve some elements that are impacting service and I’m happy to vote for it but it’s hardly the panacea that it’s been promoted to be.

    I do worry that the various (predominantly narrowly anti-union) interests that are promoting much of this campaign will give up on MUNI reform as soon as the election in November is over. We all need to make sure that Prop G is only the beginning of the real reform that is needed to actually fix MUNI.

    We need to make sure that whoever is elected to the board of supervisors and whoever replaces Gavin as mayor realizes that the problems with MUNI are complex and many and we need to keep putting pressure on them after the election.

    MUNI reform shouldn’t be a once-every-election-cycle issue. It needs to be a daily concern.

  • Alex

    As a result, Dave, you have created something other than a riders’ union. You do not advocate first and foremost for riders. To label your group as a riders’ such is misleading at best and dishonest at worst. Your group is supposedly focused on finding a consensus, which is certainly a reasonable goal. But a warm fuzzy consensus finding group is not under ANY circumstances a riders’ union.

    The part that absolutely chaps my ass is that your consensus, your words, your actions are all centered around apologizing for and advocating for drivers over pretty much anything else. Looking through the sftru.org pages I see a lot of blaming management, but absolutely nothing about holding drivers accountable for their actions. It’s extremely one sided. You guys slam the management without doing much else. If a consensus truly your goal, who represents MTA management on your steering committee? Julie Kirschbaum who headed up the TEP? Nope. Nat Ford? Nope. MTA board members? Nope. Bruce Oka? Naaah. He’s far too status quo.

    Do you remember the (muniriders.org — predecessor to sftru.org) flyers that you guys suggested people should print up? The ones where DRIVERS were singled out as needing compassion and whatnot? Where were the station agents? The fare cops? The street supervisors and every other front line employee on that flyer? Sure you could argue that hey you can’t list ALL of those positions as easily. Perhaps, as a result, you should have focused on consensus building instead of simply singling out the drivers.

    Honestly… when I called 311 to report yet another L driver that stopped off at the 7-11 on 32nd Ave for a couple minute snack, I was told I’d that despite relatively obvious video evidence, have to leave contact information for the MTA to act on the complaint. What part of an abused and demoralized ridership do you think will help make MUNI better for anyone?

    Hey, maybe a couple minutes isn’t the end of the world, but by being in such a hurry to leave the end of the line that driver (like countless before him) shortchanged the residents of the western part of the Sunset of LRV service. The so-called transit riders’ union is a fantastic (though thinly veiled) shill for the TWU, but that’s about it Dave. The so-called transit riders’ union will continue to be a mere shill until as long as you tap dance ever so well around confronting any of the major labor issues at the MTA.

  • @ – Alex. Just a little quibble, but isn’t 311 obscenely expensive? I think I read somewhere that it costs in the realm of several millions of dollars a year to operate and that each call to the center costs more than a MUNI fare.

    If I were the city’s MUNI czar then eliminating 311 might be one of the first things I did.

  • Alex

    Also missing from your steering committee: station agents, fare cops, mechanics, electricians, street superintendents, folks working the ATCS controls and all of their respective union heads. Keep in mind EVERY SINGLE one of those unions has worked with the city and with the MTA to come up with a compromise while the union (and its head) that you’ve selected stands out as the one that has come out swinging against riders, MTA management, and the city. I’m also not seeing anyone representing BART transit operators, mechanics, management, or board members.

    Shill, sham, facade. Take your pick. The so-called transit riders’ union appears to have a very narrow definition of consensus.

  • This but one piece of a bigger puzzle to fix many problems at muni. It is stupid to think that one ballot measure can address it all, and it’s better to do things one step at a time.

    I think it’s disgusting how the operators are playing the “poor me” game when it was their boneheaded leadership that refused to compromise even once, and defends the worst of the worst. It’s also kinda lame how there are now TWO so called “rider’s unions” that are puppets of TWU.

  • Alex

    @SFResident Yes/No. They get charged by call volume, but let’s face it MUNI generates a lot of complaints and questions. My guess is that funding 311 is cheaper than funding full-time employees to answer the phones. Even if not, 311 provides proper multi-lingual service and after hours service. The Municipal Railway never did that on its own, and I’d shudder to think how much it would cost to have dedicated MTA employees doing that.

  • Mick

    Alex

    You can see the problem with Snyder’s position as soon as he allows himself to be distacted by concepts like wanting to “narrow the gap between the rich and the poor”. That is not within the scope of his role. He should be an advocate for the riders and ridersrs aren’t looking to him for wealth redistribution strategies. Nor to ask us to pay me taxes.

    The fact is that many city workers are overpaid, including cops and fire of course, and untild administrators, but also muni operators. Short of doing a Newsome on them and firing them all and rehiring them on imposed, new contracts, Prop B is the next best thing.

    Snyder wants to play nice with everyone and ends up sounding bland and neutral. He should take a stand, any stand, ratehr than be passive on the sidelines.

  • On Supervisor elections, I’m proud to be helping my friend Jim Meko with his run for District 6 Supervisor. He has not owned a car since 1969 … he’s 61 years old and bikes and takes MUNI to get around town today as he has done since he moved to San Francisco in 1977. He supports Sunday parking meters. He supports BRT on high-use bus routes. He supports removing stops where it does not negatively impact seniors abilities due to slopes (target eliminations more in the flat areas). Finally, he supports a pilot weekday evening outbound congestion charge to help fund improvements in pedestrian safety, bike transportation, and MUNI.

    None of the “big three” (the $100,000+ District 6 candidates) can claim they’ve been riding a bicycle to get around for more than a year, much less 41 years straight and counting like Jim Meko can. Debra Walker was my 2nd choice on my ballot.

  • bs

    There are some excellent comments here about MUNI and the role of the “riders’ union.” Dave, I had high hopes when your group started but I have to say I am somewhat disappointed with the results, or lack thereof. I think your heart is in the right place and I agree with many things you said. However, it seems to me that Alex and Mick are correct when they say that your attempt at “consensus building” is compromising the primary goal of prioritizing the riders’ needs and interests. It also seems reasonable to me that either you should have BOTH MUNI management and drivers (and other workers) on the board, or better yet, neither. The fact that you have Mr Lum on the board but nobody from the management does give at least the appearance of you being biased.

    And for the record, I agree that management is overpaid as well. There is no reason for Nat Ford to be making as much as he does. Even if it is “market rate,” San Francisco is a much more desirable place to live and I know A LOT of people (including myself) who are willing to make somewhat less money to live in such a great city.

  • Fran Taylor

    The parade of transportation advocates proudly declaring their hostility to Muni operators reminds me of the sad spectacle of Reagan Democrats, working class whites who voted to usher in an era that brought us homelessness, union busting, and illegal wars — none of which benefited these voters in the least. Sean Elsbernd no more cares about Muni riders than Ronald Reagan cared about the laboring classes. In both courtships, manipulation for political gain has been hidden behind the vilification of vulnerable targets.

    For Reagan, the “welfare queen” was coming to steal your hard-earned money; for Elsbernd, the lazy, inconsiderate Muni driver is the cause of your miserable commute. Reagan’s welfare queen has since been thoroughly debunked, and Elsbernd’s villain conveniently leaves off the hook business leaders, the mayor, the press, the governor, all those who have had a hand in cutting service and raising fares over the years, either directly or through their opposition to increased meter revenue and other measures to fund Muni.

    We’re also isolating ourselves into a largely white, self-entitled transportation movement if we blow off one of the most diverse groups of workers in the city and even start baiting organizations that work with unions. Riders and operators have much more in common than riders and apologists for auto-centric planning.

  • Why shouldn’t advocates for social justice be outraged by city employee compensation, particularly in transit where much of the cost is passed along to riders? Every dollar that city workers are compensated above market rate is a dollar that has to come out of higher fares for the city’s working class and higher taxes for everyone.

    According to the TEP Profile of Muni Riders, almost a quarter of Muni’s riders make less than $15,000/yr, and about two thirds make less than the average operator *base pay* of $60,000. So again, why shouldn’t advocates be focusing on riders more than operators?

    Now I completely agree that compensation and work rules are only one component of Muni’s abysmal performance, and I would have been much happier to see a comprehensive reform measure on the ballot that included management accountability and structural change. But I also think it’s quite fair to say that there is a large gap in income and in interests between riders and operators, and what we’ve seen over the last several years are higher fares for the city’s most vulnerable residents while TWU members have seen their compensation continue to soar on a path that is unsustainable.

  • Alex

    Petulant union leadership is not a race based issue, shame on you for framing it as one.

  • Gillian Gillett

    Fran, attacking Sean Elsbernd is uncalled for. I have direct experience working with Sean Elsbernd in support of both Prop. A in 2007 and Prop. G this year – he takes Muni constantly and well knows the system and the frustration that riders all over the City feel towards Muni.

    Caring for Muni is an ongoing effort, of which Prop. G is an important step. We all know that public transit isn’t funded enough, and that a lot of existing funding was diverted by Sacramento for years, and that work orders need to be under a microscope. But for SF’s voters to vote for increased taxes to support public transit, they will need to trust that the investment is being used efficiently and effectively. Given some of the current work rules, side letters and past practices, voters will not vote to give Muni more money. Everywhere people are out of work and working more for less.

  • Kevin

    Muni drivers get paid a lot because their job is dangerous, stressful, and involves a super human amount of skill. Get over it. State funding cuts is the real issue. It takes a TON of money to run a world class transit system, accept it.

  • fred

    SF Transit Riders Union (SFTRU) is a group of people coming together to improve and expand MUNI by forming a grassroots organization of people who ride the bus. It is still new and small. We are working on a campaign to speed up MUNI (the most effective way to save money and increase service) Speeding up the bus is also the number one thing riders prioritize in surveys (riders thinking bus drivers make too much money rarely comes up in our outreach.) We are targeting the 14 Mission as the only of the three busiest lines in the city without a major plan to speed it up in the works. SFTRU is also preparing to launch a campaign to fight to restore some of the money to MUNI. (The majority of transit funding that MUNI and other transit agencies have lost has been money that has been from the State of California) We are organizing and outreaching to bus riders on the bus and at stops to build an organization that will have real power in these fights.

    The members and volunteers (and clearly the board) of the SFTRU all disagree on whether we think G is a good or bad measure. But we decided that it is inappropriate for the organization to take a position on this controversial measure as a base building organization with only a small base.
    In SF, I have seen too many groups of two or ten activists act like making statements about ballot measures or speaking on behalf of the group of people they claim to represent is more important than going out in building a base that can have real power.
    If you are interested in building real rider power come out and do outreach to riders on the bus with us. (don’t just sit back and throw stones)

  • GoGregorio

    Kevin,

    It does not bother me how much Muni operators make. I know that their job is difficult, requires skill and is sometimes dangerous. I don’t begrudge them making a lot of money, and even if they had a higher wage than T drivers, I would be fine.

    What bothers me are the work rules that lead to degrading service. Being allowed to refuse an assignment or to take more pay for it is silly and hurts riders. Preventing Muni from hiring part-time operators is highly unproductive. I know that these might be contentious issues, but these are the reasons I have a problem with setting wages without bargaining. It ends up being a bad deal for the rider.

  • Alex

    @Fred The so-called riders’ union avoids controversy? Since when? You guys took a stance on BART’s OAC. Guess what? Not only is it NOT a San Francisco project, you’ve put yourself in direct opposition to the Latino and Asian American Alameda Chambers of Commerce as well as the local Ironworkers union (and one other I’m forgetting) whose ranks are about 1/3 unemployed. But it would be wrong the anger the TWU? Really?

    Unwittingly or not, you guys are merely pawns that the TWU is using to garner support for anti-rider work rules. So many names fit your group, but riders’ union is *NOT* one of them.

  • Alex

    @Kevin So negotiate a higher base pay. As it stands the overtime rules are excessive and underhanded, and stand not only to line the pockets of non-driving drivers, but also to make calculation of total cost per employee much more difficult. Besides, drivers are not the only ones on the front lines. Station agents are out there too (and if you think crazy people don’t go into the metro, think again). Fare cops and supervisors as well. The only union that’s taking such a strong anti-rider stance is the TWU.

    If the TWU’s puerile behavior is only about pay, why fight the idea of bringing drivers who are on administrative union duty back to the buses? That the TWU has steadfastly refused to negotiate any sort of concessions merely emphasizes that it’s not about base pay and more about standing their ground to the detriment of the riders. The TWU is essentially trying to take all the credit for MUNI when it works, and refusing to take any responsibility in fixing the problems.

    While EVERY OTHER union has taken pay cuts and furloughs (this year and in previous years), the TWU sits pretty with a higher percentage of its workers on standby (and thus NOT actively driving) than other comparable transit agencies. If you think this is ONLY a pay issue, think again. As Julie Kirschbaum pointed out, the inability to hire part-timers means that express service is too expensive to consider in most cases. This hurts riders directly.

    Look, I’m actually undecided on Prop G. I’m inclined to vote no, and hope it doesn’t pass. If it doesn’t pass, hopefully the status quo will be maintained… in which case the TWU will have only themselves to blame for the resulting service cuts.

  • fred

    Alex you go on and on about the other unions like they would be agree with measure G. they all oppose putting work rules on the ballot to have folks who know nothing about the day to day work to vote on. And they all oppose having conservative judges trump both bargaining and arbitrators. this is a shitty anti-union way to make any of these changes. If drivers and station agents and mechanics weren’t working all day instead a responding to every other post all day on the computer, they would explain it better. The Labor Council, SEIU1021 and the other unions that represent other MUNI workers are all against it.
    Neither TWU nor SPUR made the endorsements for SFTRU, though we asked them both to be on our board along with over eight other organizations.
    SFTRU doesn’t avoid controversy, but those of us trying to organize our fellow bus riders just all had different opinions on this measure. And most of the people I talk to on the bus are much more concerned about other issues than this issue.
    The Oakland Airport Connector takes huge amounts of money from the common pot of regional funding and takes money away from MUNI and AC transit operational funding.
    Real changes have to be made and only will be made by those who depend on the bus taking some power.

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