Muni Operators Reject Concessions Proposal

Muni drivers rejected a concessions proposal today that would have saved the SFMTA $18.7 million over the next two years and allowed the agency to fully restore service by next July.

Echoing a vote earlier this year, members of the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A voted down the proposal negotiated between TWU leadership, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency management, and the Mayor. The $18.7 million in savings would have come over two years, primarily by allowing the agency to use part-time operators and requiring operators to work at least 40 hours in a week before receiving overtime pay.

Operators rejected the proposal by a vote of 747-to-538 — slightly closer than the 857-575 vote operators cast last February to reject another concessions package.

In a statement released this evening, Mayor Gavin Newsom said the rejection is "simply unacceptable" and called on TWU to revote. "TWU’s rejection of a second tentative agreement is a slap in the face to everyone who rides Muni and to every other public employee union member," the Mayor said.

"Once again, I call upon the membership of TWU to reconsider and revote. TWU union members’ vote to raise their own pay while forcing longer waits and more crowded buses is simply unacceptable."

SFMTA Executive Director Nat Ford said he was deeply "disappointed and perplexed" by the operators for rejecting what he called "reasonable concessions."

"I join with Mayor Newsom and all responsible people in challenging the members of TWU 250A to quickly reconsider their actions and to recast their votes," he added. "By doing so, they will join the ranks of their union brothers and sisters across City government who have selflessly acted to preserve jobs and to ensure the delivery of vital services to the people of San Francisco.”

TWU officials could not be reached this evening for comment on the vote. More coverage from the Chronicle. We’ll have a follow-up on Monday.

  • Vet4cuba

    Maybe the Mayor could try an agreement that does not violate the 8 hour day. This was taken away by the labor commission appointed by GOP governors and re-instated by law a year later.

    All non-exempt employees in California get overtime after 8 hrs. in a day or 40 hrs in a week unless the workplace has voted for a ten hour 4 day week.

  • Disgusting, despicable, and there’s so many other words to describe the union rejecting the proposal. Defacto service cuts (missing runs, breakdowns, and plenty more) on top of the existing service cuts now continues down the black hole spiral.

  • city

    The mayor should re-evaluate and remember that the sfmta was formed and had/has him as the one pretty much calling the shots to how the agency is being ran. We the public as a whole would be ignorant to not realize that at the end of the day, the agency is being mismanaged. And who does that all lead back to? Mayor newsom himself! The operators aren’t the ones who decide on service cuts, management is! Open your eyes people!

  • So if you really want to do something, please visit and help collect petition signatures for Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s pension reform measure … Fix Muni is important too, but S FSmartReform is even more important.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    Vet4cuba, I doubt that insufficient overtime is a real problem among Muni operators.

  • Charles

    Just for the record (and the MTA and the Chron will never tell you this), Muni operators have been under a wage freeze for the last year-and-a-half, a concession we agreed to in order to help out with a budget problem two years ago. Without that we would have had much worse service cuts. _We have already been helping out!_

  • Nick

    A lot of us don’t appreciate the union-busting tactics from the Mayor and MTA management. We see it for what it is. Good for them for voting it down.

    MTA has systemtic problems that they will continue to happily not address. Perhaps they should stop promoting the Big Lie that drivers are soley responsible for service cuts.

    And as an aside, I overheard some people talking yesterday that Irwin Lum was in the hospital last night. If it’s true I hope he’s ok. What makes it relevant is that the Mayor would push for a revote while their leader is absent.

  • rich415

    your sean elsbernd fix muni is your give back, the operators are not going to give anything knowing that your going to take at the barganing table, it is that simple, you want to take what created labor peace with the city for 40 years, and throw it out the window because this punk wants to run for mayor, its the blind leading the blind, 67 miilion dollars that was allocated for muni was givin to other agencies, that was muni money not for gavin newsome to give away.

  • Alex

    @rich: WOOSH. That’s the sound of you completely missing the point. I’ve given specific examples in other posts so I’ll be terse here. TWU work rules are saddling the MTA with unsustainable legacy costs and inefficiencies that prevent the MTA from providing more service. Simply throwing money at the MTA is not a viable solution.

    @Charles Wage freeze? You guys are getting a raise next year as EVERY OTHER PUBLIC UNION is taking a pay cut and possibly furloughs. Most department heads are also taking a pay cut. And you guys are doing what? Other MTA unions do flextime to avoid incurring such excessive overtime, and you guys at the TWU do what?

    The TWU’s rank and file aren’t the only problem, but they are the least cooperative of the bunch… and the ONLY group to be advocating anti-rider changes!

    So let’s see. Trying to get home from the Mission last night. Forty minute headways on the J. When I finally caught a J, the brilliant driver managed to introduce a disembarking passenger to the concrete below at Church & Duboce. Then another twenty minute wait for an L. Yay!

    Then another 10+ (I stopped counting after ten minutes, and started walking) wait at West Portal while the driver said bupkis (and the other seven or so MTA employees milled around the station trying desperately to look as disinterested as humanly possible).

    By the time I was a few blocks away from my house, I made a nasty face at the inbound L driver headed my way. She would have seen the face too if she were watching the road instead of hurriedly scrounging in the cab for some food.

    It sure seems like the TWU has nothing but contempt for riders… but I guess it doesn’t really matter. If things get bad enough, some enterprising politician will legislate a far less charitable solution.

  • Why is anyone surprised by this? Under the current arrangement, TWU has no incentive to give anything.

    Jamie is also absolutely right that Muni’s problems have less to do with wages and more to do with pensions. The reason you don’t hear more about this is that pension reform is needed across every city department, not just the MTA, and our elected officials are too cowardly to actually push for systemic reform. However, SF Smart Reform is really no solution at all, as it does not eliminate defined-benefit programs. It just kicks the can down the road a little so that we don’t have to worry about a pension crisis, let the next generation deal with it!

  • Alex

    And if you want the sympathy of riders perhaps the TWU should stop agitating:

    – Against 311. Having some sort of telephone support is a good thing for riders. We benefit by being able to get and give information in short order.

    – Against security cameras. I (and I suspect most riders) care not whether drivers feel like they’re being watched by big brother… more importantly is whether or not we feel safe. The security cameras have helped identify rogue drivers (much to the chagrin of the TWU I’m sure), but they *could* have helped identify any number of attackers or thugs. Remember Hatim Mansori?

    – Against transfers. That the TWU was agitating against free transfers as a way to save money… do you guys understand how essential transfers are to riders?

    – Against the TEP. I believe the quote was “we know how many people we push and pull every day.” Unless the TWU is willing to take responsibility for the mismash of routes and crap scheduling, perhaps they ought to stop opposing efforts to clean things up (or at least come up with something more constructive to say).

    You guys don’t have an image problem, you’ve got an attitude problem.

  • It’s very very clear that the muni operators are not friends of the owner/rider. Thus any “rider’s union” that includes them in the leadership should either pack up and shut down, or kick the TWU off the governing board. They have a union already. Owner/riders need one of their own that will stand up for them, and since it’s clear that operators aren’t willing to work with people, just yell “racism” and protect their own turf, that’s fine, but the average Muni rider needs someone to stand up for them too.

    And yes, operator pay is not the only thing fucking up muni’s finances. We know that. But the fact that 1/2 of all over time paid by the city goes to Muni? Come on. Most people in SF don’t have a union or have things like “pay me not to show up to wor” clauses – they get fired for fucking up on the job. So when we hear the cries of Muni’s workers, it falls on deaf ears.

  • oh and to correct the record about so-called “labor peace” – after many city worker strikes in the late 60s and early 70s, a charter amendment was passed forbidding strikes by city workers.

    So all this talk about how this pay deal is ensuring “labor peace” is patent bullshit pumped out by the TWU and their sock puppets.

  • I’m reflexively pro-union but the rank-and-file of the TWU is playing stupid with this whole process. The work rules, as I understand them, are pretty absurd and even worse is the general inability of management to bargain about work rules and pay – something that shackles the city to unrealistic economic fictions.

    When it comes down to it, MUNI is a public service with the primary goal of moving citizens around the city. It exists for the riders, not for the union. While the workers should make a decent salary and have fair work rules, those salaries and work rules need to be reasonable and sustainable. Currently they are not. The TWU is almost certainly going to lose this political battle and the operators are going to end-up in a spot that is MUCH worse than it would be had they been more reasonable political actors.

    That being said, it’s important to remember that this is ultimately a problem of management and that MUNI reform needs to be comprehensive if it is to be real reform.

  • As an aside, there is no changing the defined benefits for existing employees… Or at least what they have already earned. Adachi’s petition language does not touch retirement benefits because they are 100% protected by the California Government Code, as I understand it. BUT, we can ask that employees contribute more than 0% towards those promised benefits.. And that is what we need to do if we do not want to watch more service cuts, increased fees become the norm for all of San Francisco government …. Then it will truly become a town just for rich retired folks.

  • rich415

    the operators have not gotten raises and it seems like they will not be getting raises, the issue is you have to scape goat someone so why not the black guy, right HOMMIES.

  • @rich – you aren’t talking to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Playing that card amongst the readers of this blog only pushes more and more of us to support Elsbernd’s measure. And you can bitch about that all you want, but it won’t help you when it’s passed.

  • Nick

    Is there any update on how many signatures they collected so far? I saw only a few disshevled looking people with clipboards annoying passerbys. Not a recipe for success.

  • @jamie Absolutely it would be unfair to retroactively change existing obligations even if it were legal; the best we can do is close enrollment on the existing systems and have new hires get defined-contribution plans. Yes, this means that you won’t start to see the benefits on the budget until decades down the road, but conversely doing nothing means passing the burden onto future generations those decades in the future, at which point it will have reached crisis level and they will be forced to do something drastic.

    And of course defined-contribution is also good for the workers, as they will be in control of their own money rather than having it in a questionably managed fund, and will no longer be living under the constant threat that cities or the state will declare bankruptcy and have a judge forcibly change obligations before they retire. In the past this may have seemed like a chance so small that it required no consideration, but hopefully after Vallejo and with cities’ credit ratings plummeting everywhere people are more aware of the risk.

    Now Adachi’s measure simply requires employees make the maximum contribution possible under existing law, without changing any of the fundamentals of the system itself. It’s better than doing nothing, but not a long-term solution!

  • Adachi’s measure would save $170 million per year that would otherwise have to go to CalPERS (who hasn’t had the best investment results in recent years, making governments’ premiums due go up more than expected soon). We need changes to defined contribution for new employees, but that doesn’t help for at least 20 years thereafter as someone said. Adachi’s measure gets a handle on things now … And I gotta salute the guy for having the balls to do the right thing when no other elected is willing to touch this issue with a ten foot pole for the selfish fear of not getting labor endorsements/help on their next elections … In other words, they are cowards (Newsom, that is you Mr. Kick the can done the road 2 years)

  • rich415

    and when it passes idiots we will not be barganing to be the second highest paid, but the highest paid do to push and pull 700.000 riders a day .

  • rich415

    and you guys really think that changing the clause where the muni operators are to be the second hihgest paid is really going to hurt the operators and its not , all it is saying is you have to bargain just like everyone else, which alot of operators want to do any way, thats why their saying no to concessions now because they waiting to go too the barganing tables so just wait till july 1 2011 and let the games begin, the overtime rules the using of part time drivers we will gladly give that back at the tables so dont get all your boxers worked up have a great day.

  • david vartanoff

    @rich415, negotiations are a two way street. Long past time for serious changes in the MOU. Abolish the separate divisions to rail, rubber tire, cable. End the “run” job pick–8hrs on routes/schedule as assigned/reassigned. Your colleagues flake at Potrero, a bunch of you go over from x to fill some of the runs–NO PREMIUM. L Taraval is jacked up, trains are dynamically reassigned to get service back in sequence–NO PREMIUM. The premium for No Leader goes away–maybe you will educate your “leader” about showing up or quitting. Part time tripper jobs to cover rush hour. No more paid time in the “gilley room”. I am sure there are several other improvements that could be made.
    So you get the picture, FIRE Ford, next ED paid piece work based on ridership/penalty for lack of on time/not outs.

  • rich415

    do not base my pay on the way the next guy works, because im on time 95 % but the next person may have been a operator for 25 years and their skills may have declined, so basing pay on ontime performance will not fly especially in san francisco where on time is impossible any way where you only have three streets with bus only lanes and a city who wants the bus to come every eight minutes , not going to work. operators would be stpid to base your pay on ontime performance.

  • Alex

    When you get bonuses for showing up to work(!), bonuses for runs without a leader, bonuses for covering different runs… your pay IS ALREADY based on the performance of other drivers.

  • Chris Reyes

    Ever wonder why our Mayor and BOS has not taken a pay cut? They pass it onto the blue collar workers who drive them around as well other employees. LEAD BY EXAMPLE, GAVIN and BOS. Does the Gavin really need a gass guzzler SUV? True it is a hybrid. SO getting mpg justifies it. I guess that looks good for his record when he smoozes his constituents along Union Street. Oh wait…. he’s collecting money for his LT Gov. race. MUNI operators is the only profession whom you can get spit on but not have it counted as assult.

  • Chris Reyes

    Gavin wants to hire part-time workers to drive the bus. Will this brilliant program include health benefits. Lets face it the only reason why we choose to work for MUNI is because we ejoy the abuse and assults we receive from the public. A lot of people complain how easy driving for MUNI is. I’d like to see the same people apply for these part-time positions and enjoy the same “benefits” we receive from the public.

  • Alex

    @Chris This is your livelihood then that we’re discussing? And the best you can do is to make grossly uninformed hand gestures and wild speculation? Do everyone a favor and read the applicable MOU[1] before shooting your mouth off.

    Comments like yours (and quite frankly all of the TWU members that seem to find their way here) are nothing but a giant FUCK YOU to riders. Instead commenting in a way that demonstrates knowledge and grasp of the concept at hand, you shoot down anything that doesn’t preserve the status quo for the drivers. See my previous comments for things the things like customer service, transfers, and telecommunications that other TWU members have rallied against in direct opposition to the riders’ interests.

    In fact, if you’d bothered reading the recent MTA partial audit, you’d already know that the MTA has a higher percentage of drivers on standby (a.k.a. DOING NOTHING) than comparable agencies across the nation. If you’d listened to Julie Kirschbaum, you’d know that one of the key reasons more express service is *not* provided is because they’d need to use full-time workers for what really is part time work (as demand for service is NOT steady throughout the day).


  • Alex

    And, just in case you’re going to try and claim (with lots of hand waving) gloom and doom from any of the proposed amendments:

    Elsbernd’s is here:

    The Mirkarimi amendment is here:

    (but you’d know that already if you were reading streetsblog and not merely spreading FUD — fear, uncertainty, and doubt).

    Have at ’em.

  • Seal

    @Chris: “the only reason why we choose to work for MUNI is because we ejoy the abuse and assults we receive from the public.”

    You owe me a new keyboard. I laughed so hard when I read that.

    In my years of riding the MUNI buses, I have never seen a worker being abused. What I *HAVE* seen are arrogant, unhelpful MUNI employees not doing even a half-assed job. I walk into the station, the change machine is broken. It’s been broken for days. The MUNI agent sitting and reading his newspaper barely looks up; he suggests I go back outside and buy something to get the change.

    MUNI employees have no idea what “abuse” means; if anyone is being abused, it is the citizens of San Francisco who have to put up with this extortion year in and year out.

    One MUNI employee put it best on this very forum:
    “Quit your bitching and pay your taxes”

  • Seal

    Here’s something I don’t understand.

    As a private sector employee, the amount of money I can put in my 401(k) is limited to around $16500. Even if I want to pay more, I can’t. Even if I worked 100% overtime, I would still be able to contribute only this much.

    So why are public sector employees allowed to bump up their pensions by overtime, cashing in sick leave, etc. ?

  • mike

    Civil servant unions in this city – of which I am a member – are losing my support by the moment. Until there’s some semblance of real accountability and the average civil servant strives to earn their amazing salaries and benefits, esp in these tough economic times, we should not act so entitled and aghast when the average taxpayer – the payer of our salaries – challenges our contracts. Sorry.

    Go Elsbernd. Go Adachi.

  • Chris Reyes

    @Alex & Seal. FYI. I do not work for MUNI, rather I work for an advertising company in downtown. Obviously the both of you only ride MUNI during working hours and only ride on less troubled lines. Like 6 Parnasuss, 41 union. Try riding the 14 Mission at night. How many operators have been spat on or punched without noone assisting. Few months ago, a driver was dragged off the 9 San Bruno without anyone assisting. Arrest made??? none. All this is in public records at 1 south van ness. The whole thing about. Much like all jobs as well as in yours it takes 1 person to ruin your whole day.

  • @Chris I think you are absolutely right, but I think this is another area where the union is selling operators short with their rules. Why shouldn’t management be free to put a pay premium for operating the toughest runs, like a 14 or 9 at 2am? And lower pay for an easy route like the 41?

  • Seal

    @Chris: you’re talking about a law and order problem. That has nothing to do with salaries, which are based on the complexity of the task at hand. If there’s a law-and-order problem, the MUNI should ask the SFPD for help, or hire security guards. You just don’t pay ALL drivers 100% more than the market just because SOME drivers occasionally get harassed. That’s just stupid.

    Just FYI: I was spat on and threatened with violence on the MUNI a couple of months ago. I didn’t ask for a refund on my ticket.

    And your claims of the MUNI drivers suffering fall *FLAT* in light of the fact that the drivers themselves are fighting the installation of cameras, claiming it’s like “big brother” watching them. YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS! Cameras would help in capturing and prosecuting those who harass the drivers, and yet the drivers don’t want them!

  • marcos

    The negotiated agreement was a two party agreement, not imposed by the Mayor.

    The idea that we race to the bottom trying to ensure that everyone has a crappy pension is bogus.

    One contributing factor to the real estate crash is that people proxy their houses to counter retirement insecurity.

    Do we really want to be diminishing wages of senior employees because, relative to a younger employee, their “skills might have diminished?” What are the long term social impacts of such an approach?

    Just because the private sector has been starving workers does not mean that the public sector should follow suit. To the contrary, we should try to figure out each and every way to make the lives of the non-rich better at the expense of the rich.


  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    Marc I don’t think anybody, other than Chronicle editors, really cares about the overall level of compensation earned by Muni operators. What offends the riders is the amount of effort spent actually earning such compensation, as opposed to flagrant goldbricking.

    The public face of the TWU is an organization which thinks it is reasonable and fair to involve a union representative in the decision to reassign a vehicle from the K line to the L line. The public face of the TWU is an organization whose members have a 15% no-show rate on any given day and more than 30% no-show rate on days after long weekends.

  • marcos

    @Jeffrey, The problem with the TWU is that it is not an organization, or at least it is not organized, it is a zombie, incoherent entity.

    I believe that my original point was that the deal that was rejected was not one that Newsom imposed on TWU, rather one jointly negotiated.

    The TWU has been approached by progressives to identify common ground based on our shared principles. They have refused to offer up any suggestions on how to make this turn out better.

    Riders will not suffer the consequences if the arbitration rules are changed to favor riders, nor will we suffer if the wage floor is removed. All we can do is extend a hand from a footing within political reality.

    My comments on racing to the bottom have to do with the move to hack away at pensions as a money saver amidst a global campaign by finance capital to eliminate any sort of social spending, especially retirements.


  • @marcos On the contrary, the folks at the corrupt financial firms would like nothing better than for government workers to remain the last major group on defined-benefit retirement plans, where the workers have no control over their own money, and plan administrators are free to give control of it out to hedge fund managers charging massive fees to finance their bonuses!

    Do you really think that public employees are better off in this situation than they would be if we gave them ownership of their retirement money that could not be modified by a bankruptcy judge in a defined-contribution plan with a generous match?

  • marcos

    One cannot necessarily survive off of defined contribution, but one can survive off of defined benefit.

    Banksters want to force people into the casino, I’d prefer a public option.


  • TF


    Everyone would prefer a defined-benefit plan that guarantees sufficient income for everyone upon retirement.

    That’s like saying you like apple pie.

    But it’s also pie-in-the-sky without consideration of how it gets paid for. And the unfunded liability for these unsustainable plans are already starting to bankrupt some CA cities, and Oakland could be getting close to that point. With SF, it may only be a matter of time.

    Asking the average Muni rider to accept an ever-worsening service just so that Muni operators never have to take a cut in anything, or to have any reduction in their disposable income, when the rest of us are dealing with exactly that, is not a persuasive argument.

    Get back to us when you have a plan to fund this.

  • marcos

    Look, the money supply is at all time low levels because the private banksters at the Federal Reserve are bond vigilante-ing the US dollar into submission. There is plenty of monetary capacity in this economy to finance defined benefits for a dignified, not luxurious but comfortable and humane, retirement for everyone.

    Once the more than half of the boomers realize that their 401(k) and 403(b) plans are going to leave them eating cat food, this most entitled generation is not going to submit to poverty willingly.

    Retirement insecurity is an imperative of financialism, financialism is a creature of law, law is whatever the voters representatives say it is.

    Financialism’s political base is not sufficient enough to withstand the kind of public mobilization which folks facing working until they’re in their 70s or beyond in increasingly debasing work lest they have to survive homeless and/or on cat food will provide.

    This is where the hard nosed realities are going to dispense with so-called “free market” economic sharia once and for all.


  • I just don’t understand the assumption that defined benefit schemes provide higher payouts or are more secure. Certainly some pensions offered to some public sector workers are very generous, but you can design any kind of plan to have any level of funding you want. I’ve seen some very generous defined-benefit plans as well, such as 5% employee contribution with a 10% employer match.

    The big difference is that with a defined contribution scheme, the money belongs to the worker, and you cannot have your benefits reduced or modified if the city or state goes bankrupt. You are also free to invest it at whatever risk level you like: want nothing but security? Put 100% in inflation protected securities. No plan administrator can give your money away to Goldman Sachs or hedge fund managers following the latest Wall Street craze, and you aren’t forced to have your money invested in companies you find unethical.

    I’d also note that we already have a public option for retirement since 1935 (not actually an option, since its mandatory), and predictably its funds were raided by politicians to fund programs instead of kept safe and sound for retirees, so it now functions as a ponzi scheme, is facing insolvency and will be forced to reduce benefits below what people were originally promised, most likely through raising of the retirement age. I can’t think of anything that could illustrate the point better!

  • marcos

    The collateral that guarantees that Social Security will be funded is social unrest. The “free market’ has resulted in the government being purchased by wealthy interests who have hijacked Social Security into lucrative yet economic dead ends of military contracting and perpetual war.

    Confidence in the mechanisims of the market has been lost and for the time being there does not seem to be any political will within the purchased political class to the contrary.

    Social Security would be fully flush and solvent if the cap on taxable income were lifted. If the fund were maintained by slashing military expenditures, retirement would be comfortable and the economy would be stimulated domestically with additional consumption.

    Free market sharia might have shaped your economic theoretical development, but it is no different from any other fundamentalist ideology and no more descriptive or accurate.


  • Souper


    This is a transportation blog and not a platform for endless communist rants, no matter how adorably naive they are.

    Does anyone moderate this place?

  • willa

    While many of you out there are so miss informed about whats going on with muni #1 We don’t get paid to stay at home get real. #2 the riders are not suffering because of the operators the MTA cut runs and when there cut and buses stop there are no drivers get it.#3 RDO which is overtime is given out upon approval so if they dont want no one to work overtime they dont have to give it.#4 We have been on a wage freeze for 2 years now, gave up furlogh days 2 yeas in a row and they have made cuts to the bus service twice in 6 months 12/09 and 05/10 which also affects drivers pay. #5 we do not get a bonus #6 The MEDIA put out so many lies about the operators its crazy and when we ask our UNION to strike back they say that the media would just twist our words #7 Must I go on I have a lot to say check your sourses!!!!

    From a very pleasant Operator


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