Muni Operators Vote to Reject Concessions Proposal

Muni drivers rejected a concessions proposal today that would have saved dozens of operator jobs while reducing Muni service cuts and fare increases.

Members of the Transport Workers Union Local 250A voted down the proposal negotiated between TWU President Irwin Lum, MTA management, and the Mayor. Had the operators accepted the proposal, it would have saved the cash-strapped MTA nearly $15 million over two years, according to an MTA memo (PDF) outlining the plan.

MTA spokesperson Judson True confirmed the proposal was rejected, but didn’t have further comment on the matter tonight. Sources told Streetsblog the proposal was rejected by a 857-575 vote. MTA Executive Director Nat Ford confirmed the number to the Chronicle.

Lum said that many of the union members were concerned that the concessions were too high a price to pay without a guarantee from the MTA against future layoffs, service cuts and fare hikes.

"Our members were concerned that this would have drastically affected seniors, disabled and youth, and even with this ratification, [increased prices for] Fast Passes for them would have been postponed but not totally avoided in the future. So, there was not a guarantee." said Lum. "The other main thing making it unfair is to commit to a proposal that would still reduce service and increase fares."

"They felt that any agreement in the future would necessitate some kind of commitment to prevent layoff of our members," he added. "We’re talking about millions of dollars of givebacks. There has to be some kind of line drawn somewhere. It just can’t be a vague, open-ended agreement that things could still happen, in terms of layoffs, in terms of service cuts, and the whole issue of fare increases for seniors, disabled and youth."

Even before negotiations began, the MTA had planned on savings from operator concessions to help balance a $16.9 million end-of-year budget shortfall. Now, the MTA will need to go back to the drawing board to figure out how to replace the anticipated savings from the concessions, all before a February 26 vote by the agency’s Board.

It originally appeared the MTA might save about $2 million this fiscal year through the concessions, which could have been used to prevent the senior/disabled/student Fast Pass rate from jumping from $20 to $30, and might also have mitigated proposed Muni service cuts. Instead, the MTA’s budget hole is even worse than expected, by $700,000 through the end of this fiscal year. That could mean harsher service cuts or more fare increases on top of what’s currently proposed.

The biggest chunk of the $15 million in savings would have been from operators making a one-time contribution to their retirement fund in the next fiscal year. That would have netted $8.9 million, on top of temporary reforms to overtime pay that would have saved $0.54 million this year and $3.25 million next year, health benefit concessions that would have saved $1.3 million this year, and changes to other benefits that would have netted $0.11 million this year and $0.65 next year.

On the bright side for the MTA, a windfall of federal stimulus funds originally directed towards the BART Oakland Airport Connector has been diverted to other local transit agencies, and could help close the budget gap. According to True, of the $17.5 million Muni would receive, $4.3 million will go to preventive maintenance, essentially operating expenses.

For operators, the concessions proposal would have meant fewer layoffs – perhaps saving as much as a third of the 170 positions set to be eliminated as part of the Muni service cut plan.

  • REALLY bad PR move by TWU IMO. It’s been widely reported how much they’re receiving in wages and how much of a net increase that is. If they can’t come in and get their members to vote for concessions, people and public opinion are going to turn on them in these trying times, just like they did with BART. The public in general has already put up with fare increases and severe cut service, there’s not much more we can handle.

  • Kev

    Simply ridiculous. They can’t even bring themselves to make a ONE-TIME contribution to their OWN retirement to save THEMSELVES from layoffs? Do they eat their young? Muni truly has become an employee benefit society that ocassionally chooses to provide transportation.

    Much blame falls on Newsom for being fearful of eliminating Muni’s pay floor (which used to be a pau ceiling) at the risk of seeming “anti-Labor”. What a shame, San Francisco.

  • those dudes

    i don’t blame them. the mayor has refused to allow parking meter changes to survive as a revenue option, but somehow expected muni drivers to give up something for nothing as a cost-saving option.

  • patrick

    Isn’t there a supervisor who is going to put an initiative on the ballot to have the pay go back to negotiation? I predict a massive landslide victory for any such initiative.

    Maybe this will turn out for the best, a bunch of layoffs, then a renegotiated contract after the ballot initiative passes that lowers pay and benefits. I don’t see much support from the public if there is a strike.

  • Ken

    What a surprise. Unfortunately, as long as Gavin and Nat are at the helm, this ship is just going to keep on sinking. Down, down, down, like the Titanic.

  • What a surprise. TWU is being a pack of dickheads. Hey news flash TWU, the rest of the world is getting fucked over….you were asked to give back oh so little and you couldn’t….the taxpayers aren’t a cash cow and the fact you couldn’t do your part to save muni means you’re a pack of assholes!

  • laura

    Amazing spin:

    “Our members were concerned that this would have drastically affected seniors, disabled and youth”

    Yeah, I bet they are concerned about fare hikes hurting the people who pay their salaries. Really, really concerned. This vote was purely out of the goodness of their hearts, a way to show more love for their riders.

  • Capt. Lou


  • luana

    Wow, these bus drivers are really concerned about the seniors, disabled and youth. You mean the same bus drivers that ignore the disabled people trying to get on the bus, do nothing when seniors are getting beaten up or getting run over by them? How many people have been physically harmed by the actions of bus drivers. How many more passengers that actually pay the fare have stopped taking MUNI because the bus drivers let all their “cousins” on for free, let the bus fill up with thugs that don’t pay and push people around?

    If those concerned bus drivers would stop running red lights, texting and getting in accidents, those seniors would still be alive and there would be far less disabled people not to mention the MUNI system wouldn’t be in debt from the multi-million dollar lawsuits all due to driver breaking the law and not being able to do the only skill they are hired for: driving a bus safely.

    It makes me disgusted as a union member how many horrible unsafe drivers are protected by this union and how the public is paying from a problem with a work culture that supports bad drivers. fire all drivers that break laws and safety regulation and have the problem with service and costs would be solved.

    We need the SF police to arrest bus drivers that break laws and drive recklessly. We would expect that of anyone else driving on the street but turn a blind eye on the criminally dangerous drivers of this city.

  • anotherdude

    my .02

    1st post – drivers have already gave money to try to get out of the mess that the city’s budget can’t figure out. Also, if you read the numbers not all drivers voted against it.

    2nd post- the one time contribution doesn’t really matter when the raise that was promised 18 months is basically going to pay that contribution. So a 2.36$ raise will be a zero raise. That’s not including the additional items to be frozen over the next 14 months.

    3rd post – agreed. If u don’t want to extend meters and change other entities downtown that are supposed to assist in the budget but don’t pay, the next best thing is to scapegoat the most visible thing about muni – the drivers.

    4th post-theirs a reason he pulled his initiative – he found out that muni drivers pay MORE than any other city worker in benefits. The “bonuses” are not bonuses but money that drivers put in from their medical. At the end of the year that money is to help offset costs from medical benefits paid throughout the year. If supervisors ballot thing is passed All the negotiation is gonna do is make the drivers become top paid in the nation. If they don’t get what they want they will strike. Look at Ac transit and the strike vote they have 8 months ago- strike vote lead to money “appearing ” out of no where.

    5th post – yup. That’s where to start at but nothing is gonna happen when they get replaced – just another suit to bring false promise.

    6th post- muni already gave money before: from the trust fund.

    7th post- passengers only pay like 12-16% of the salaries. Blame the governator first because the main reason the budget is so jacked up is in CA no transportation co got money from him this year. No bus company is ever out of the red. they are always in debt.

    9th post- how are disabled ignored? If ur at the bus stop, you get picked up. Simple. If your across the street on a red and want to risk your old life to catch a bus that has a follower 10 min behind… Is your life worth 10 min? I think you should leave your home earlier next time. Also, what do you expect of drivers if someone (anyone)gets beaten up or attacked? Step in and stop the fight? YOU said bus drivers get paid for one skill -to drive the bus safely. Bus drivers are not police,fire dept, doctors etc. All they are supposed to do is Call central and stop the bus. If a bus driver gets out the seat technically they can get fired.
    Muni’s policy of fare is that bus drivers need to just state the fare. That’s all. Would you like It if the bus driver told everyone that they had to pay the fare? Doing that makes everyone late, and who is gonna help the bus driver catch all the ppl not paying? you?i doubt it. Your probably minding your own business listening to you ipod.
    Also, these thugs and cousins you say get on the bus, believe it or not carry weapons. Would you like to be the one to tell them they got to pay or get off and be subject to a beating, stabbing, or worse?
    Regarding running red lights and texting and running ppl over- it’s called drivecam. It’s on the front of the bus and it has done wonders for muni. 12-24 drivers are let go every month..yes..every month bc of those same things. But it’s a double edged sword- now that they let them go,your bus schedule may not show up b/c they can’t fill the run. That new camera is firing bad drivers which are mostly vets who still think muni hasn’t changed. Muni has changed for the better. Ask your buddy Nat Ford about that.
    Muni also out of those payouts had to pay fake lawsuits too. I know you seen someone magically fall in front of a bus and say it hit them from 4ft away.Or 10 ppl magically appear on the bus after it was in an accident claiming injury?
    Don’t you recall that sfpd is supposed to ride the bus? Where are they at? Shouldn’t you be getting mad at them for not working with muni too when ppl get beat up or mugged or stabbed or what not?
    Remember the drivers are ppl too and this is a job. How would you like it if I came to your job and yelled, threatened you, heckled you on top of your boss giving you a schedule of work that you know is not possible to complete on top of working hours that may vary so you couldn’t see your family due to work ?on top of not having a lunch or break and not having bathrooms at the end of the line? lets not forget the stinky,drunk, smelly, and the shitty ones too.And lets not forget the coworkers who don’t want to show up and the ones who dont want to do their job.Everyone hates MUNI like they hate DMV for it long lines and hates United for its 3 hour waits at the airports. You couldn’t pay me enough to take on that kind of job.They got alot of stuff they got to deal with so unless your a driver and know firsthand how Muni is like- you really cant say anything. Too many Chiefs not enough Indians.

    TEP is bullshit. If they really took their head out their ass they would realize that if they would change schedules to be run at slower speeds that would resolve tons of issues. (schedules are made to be run at 25 mi/hr)
    MUNI should take a couple pages out of ac transits book – they made tons of things happen that helped the public and screwed the drivers over the last couple years. They also got layoffs on the books possibly in March. But for people to say lets fire the drivers and hire new ones and yada yada – if for ONE day muni stopped working -this city would burn itself down.

  • Sean

    “If ur at the bus stop, you get picked up. Simple.”


  • andrew

    Wow, a driver wants service to run slower, so they can have more drivers run the same service. No freaking way.

  • Casey

    “If for ONE day MUNI stopped working -this city would burn itself down.”

    How about let’s start with it working right for one day, and we’ll take it from there?

  • patrick


    “Now we’re going to go out there and hit the streets,” Elsbernd said. “City Hall has proven it’s not up to the challenge, but I guarantee you it is something that the public wants us to do.”

    The initiative was not removed for the reason you stated, it was removed because negotiations had appeared to be progressing. Now that that is proven false the initiative will be back on. I guarantee you if the initiative wins, Muni operators will not be highest paid in the nation. Politicians understand if it wins, the voters will be outraged if operators get raises, meaning the politicians may lose their jobs.

    We know there are many problems with muni and the government in general that are not the operators fault, the cops are charging for services not provided, muni management is crappy, Newsom is unwilling to raise meter rates. But this rejections is a big f-you to the muni riders, especially when the union then makes such ridiculous claims as it is concerned for seniors, disabled & youth.

    Yes, drivers have a tough job, but a lot of drivers do a really bad job of it. Sure there are some very good and very friendly drivers. But there are a lot of rude ones too. I thank the good drivers when I get them, I don’t do a lot of thanking.

    I was once a muni supporter and defender, but I’ve pretty much lost all of my good will towards muni. I spent years trying to get my girlfriend to ride muni, the very first time she agreed (new years eve), the bus did not show up, for 40 minutes. We wound up having to take a gypsy cab. OK, I agree that’s probably management’s fault and not the driver’s fault. So I spent about another year trying to get her to take the bus to work. She finally agrees, and the very first time she does, the fare-box is apparently broken, with no sign, just a piece of paper over it. She asks the driver if she is supposed to pay and how. He just stares at her and refuses to speak. A few months later I convince her to take the bus downtown for a personal trip. When the bus got to civic center the driver announces that a parade is going on and everybody has to get off. The driver said nothing when she got on, and nothing at any point before she kicked everybody off the bus.

    I don’t promote muni anymore.

  • @patrick – how does she get around?

  • patrick


    When we lived in our old apartment she walked, In our new apartment which is further from her office she sometimes drives and sometimes takes the bus. When going downtown she usually drives.

  • @patrick,

    I was just wondering. But I complete agree with you that it is nearly impossible to recommend MUNI to anyone. My wife and I take it, but luckily she can walk to work and I can bike to Caltrain. We don’t own a car so anything further then walking requires MUNI – my wife doesn’t feel comfortable biking in most of the city and I don’t blame her.

  • patrick


    I used to take Muni every day when I worked downtown, but my current job is not accessible by muni (an hour and a half to go 5 miles) so I mostly carpool and bike. I suggested biking to my gf, but she is also scared, and I also can’t really blame her. I actually enjoy Muni when everything goes smoothly, but it’s often enough that it doesn’t that I can no longer feel comfortable recommending it to others.

    Kudos on going car-free, I dream of getting my gf to give hers up, but it’s unlikely in the foreseeable future, and I will admit I take advantage of the access to her car more than I should.

  • Alex

    @anotherdude “9th post- how are disabled ignored? If ur at the bus stop, you get picked up.”


    As someone who was passed up by a 38, in the Richmond, at 3am… where the next 38 is god knowns how far away… homeslice didn’t even bother pulling into the curbside lane. I call bullshit. It was a $30 cab ride to Treasure Island. How many of you TWU lackies wanna pay for that?

    Or would you rather I rail on the LRV driver who slowed for, but did not stop for, the stop sign at 26th & Taraval the other day. A potential passenger approached the vehicle and almost got run over as the driver hurriedly accelerated away. All of the passengers shook their heads and mumbled while the completely oblivious driver continued on.

    “Muni also out of those payouts had to pay fake lawsuits too. ”

    I’d worry a lot more about the legitimate lawsuits that are costing the city dearly than I would worry about the “fake” lawsuits

  • Nick

    Even if TWU gave in or a ballot measure passes, what about the next 2 fiscal years? It says on their website MTA ia “advocating for revenue.” And if they don’t get it then what’s the grand plan then?