Elsbernd Muni Reform Measure Has Money and Signatures to Spare

Supervisor Elsbernd displays his abundance of signatures.Supervisor Elsbernd displays his abundance of signatures. Photo: Matt Baume.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd triumphantly delivered eighteen Bankers Boxes full of signatures to the Department of Elections on Thursday, signifying the successful completion of the first phase of a Muni reform campaign that many had claimed was politically impossible.

Elsbernd’s drop-off date was no coincidence: on the same day, he pointed out, Muni operators received a 5.5 percent pay raise, costing the city about $9 million.
Elsbernd’s legislation would enable the city to set operator wages
though collective bargaining, rather than through an averaging
of the country’s top-paying transit systems.

The Elsbernd/SPUR measure will compete with a measure introduced in May by
Supervisors Chiu, Campos, Mar, and Mirkarimi. While both measures would eliminate
the automatic pay hikes for operators, Elsbernd’s would also
eliminate "side-letter" agreements that, an
audit recently showed
, cost the city millions.

In addition, the Chiu/Campos/Mar/Mirkarimi measure would
allow the Board of Supervisors to appoint members to the MTA board
a power currently reserved exclusively for the Mayor. It would also
allow the Supervisors to veto Muni service reductions.

Comparing the two measures, Elsbernd said, "one is about empowering the
Board of Supervisors," while his "is about empowering riders of Muni."

To qualify, the measure needed 47,000 valid signatures. A cushion of over 20,000 additional signatures was thought necessary to make up for
any found to be ineligible.

By July first, the campaign had collected 74,887 signatures and was
ready to submit them to the Department of Elections, days ahead of the
drop-off deadline.

The campaign recruited volunteer signature-gatherers though a website at
FixMuniNow.com, a Facebook
, and a Twitter feed,
and Elsbernd recognized their hard work. "We couldn’t have done this
without tremendous volunteer effort," he said.

Of course, money helped, too. Elsbernd estimated that the campaign had
raised about $325,000 for signature gathering. As
the SF Appeal pointed out
, that equates to $4.27 per signature —
far higher than the average of $2.50 to $3.

The additional funding may have been necessary to overcome stiff
opposition from the drivers’ union
, which was joined by unions
representing hotel workers and firefighters, as
well as Supervisor Eric Mar


month, Newsom criticized both efforts, calling Mar’s measure a "bailout"
of the transit agency
since it
would divert $40 million to Muni from the city’s general fund. Newsom
claimed that both attempts at legislative reform were partly to blame
for Muni drivers’
rejection of concessions that would have reversed service cuts.

Others went even further. Gillian Gillett, Chair of SPUR’s Transportation Committee, recounted warnings that Elsbernd received after proposing the legislation. At one point, she recalled, "he got a call saying his political career was over."

SPUR was a critical ally in supporting the legislation and in collecting signatures. At Thursday’s news conference, Elsbernd credited Gillett as being the top signature-gatherer.

Despite union opposition and skepticism from the mayor and his fellow supervisors, Elsbernd proved capable of exceeding fundraising and signature-gathering expectations. That support from voters and donors bodes well for the
measure’s success in November.

  • I hate how the Eslbernd measure is being framed as something that will “fix MUNI.” Will it help MUNI? Yeah, that’s why I’m going to vote for it. Will it fix MUNI? NO! MUNI has other huge issues that need to be worked out including stop consolidation, incompetent management, looting by other departments via work orders, poor routing, ill conceived capital projects, etc, etc…

    In any case, I think the TWU wins the “most politically unsavvy and self-defeating union of the year” award.

  • marcos

    @SFResident: “In any case, I think the TWU wins the “most politically unsavvy and self-defeating union of the year” award.”

    So sad but too true.


  • It’s definitely a missed opportunity to have a single-issue initiative instead of going for more comprehensive reform at this moment of opportunity when there is a huge amount of frustration among riders and voters. But Elsbernd does at least deserve some respect for bucking the trend in city hall of backing off any plan that might offend any special interest, and for actually taking action while the Mayor and much of the BoS have sat idly by and watched Muni deteriorate.

    Hopefully if the initiative does pass we will see some incremental but still significant improvements in the service and budget situation after the next round of negotiations, and then when people realize Muni still has an overwhelming amount of other problems the next round of reforms will be able to move on to other issues!

  • rich415

    did you read the article in the chronicle bayarea section on page three that the supreme court ruled in favor that city employees have the right to strike , only police and firefighters cannot, very intresting.

  • rich415

    the only reason why they are increasing service is because in order to get fta funding for the central subway is because they have to prove they can maintain current service, if they dont then they will not get funding.

  • rich415

    at the next round of negotiations the operators want to be the highest paid and if they dont get it you better look for replacement buses because the strike clause is out the window just like the charter agreement that kept labor peace for 40 years and the supreme court just ruled that city unions can strike barring police and firefighters

  • Alex

    Obvious troll is obvious.

  • xSEAL

    None of these measures will “fix” MUNI, but they’re a good first step. To really fix MUNI, we need to get rid of the bloated management and the rampant abuse by the workers. You can’t really blame one segment here; both are like pigs feeding at the public trough.

    The City needs to fix MUNI by getting rid of all the special deals these unions have cut for their members, and bringing salaries and benefits down to the levels in the private sector. Upon reading this, some MUNI troll will jump in and loudly proclaim that MUNI drivers are harassed, spit upon, etc. Well, private citizens are harassed, spit upon and stabbed too in this city, and you don’t see them collecting checks for that, do you? If MUNI drivers can’t stand the working conditions, they’re free to quit.

    And while we’re at it: please get rid of these defined pension BS. Give these people a 401(k) like the rest of us and be done with it. There’s no reason why my taxes should fund the retirement of someone sitting in a condo in Miami Beach, sipping margaritas and playing pinochle.

  • rich415

    see you at the negotiation tables and then lets see who is a troll, you didnt do anything but wake a sleeping giant, yeah you wish they were making private sector money but their not and they wont, i hope the measure passes so we can really make some money, see you at the round table idiot.

  • Alex

    So if you guys get woken up, does that mean you’ll show up to work? Zing! Oh, I crack myself up.

    Seriously, it’s awesome that you think threatening the riders is the way to achieve any positive change. You do more for the Elsbernd amendment than Sean himself could ever do. It’s priceless. Your local 250A has no support from the TWU, none of the other city unions (not even the firefighters), no support from the riders (unless you count the fake riders’ union that Lum runs), even Lum has backed a charter amendment to bring wages back to the bargaining table. But somehow, some way, everyone else is to blame.

    My predictions:

    Scenario 1: Given how far right the country has shifted in the past forty years, I wouldn’t put it past some enterprising politician to legislate a no-strike clause for drivers as well. Only this time it’d be a standalone clause without any of the perks.

    Scenario 2: You guys end up like the TOs @ BART. Lost of posturing, little sympathy from the other unions, management calling for violence, and in the end no strikes materialize because rank and file realize what little support they have would evaporate with a strike.

    Scenario 3: You guys end up like the air traffic controllers. Union gets broken up, nobody cares, and life goes on.

    Scenario 4: You guys end up like the UAW. The MTA declare bankruptcy, government steps in and mandates less favorable terms.

    Scenario 5: You guys strike, piss off just about everyone, riders abandon MUNI en masse. Employees at the top will get corporate shuttles, the rest move towards walking or riding bicycles. The resulting loss of ridership means more budget cuts and laid off drivers.

  • To be fair, Elsbernd’s measure was opposed in January by Local 798 (firefighters) and Local 2 (hotel workers). So it’s not like TWU-250A is all on their own on this particular issue.

  • Alex

    Yup, and more recently they’ve agree to wage and benefit cuts:


    The cheese stands alone.

  • Debra

    What percentage of the members of Local 798 actually live in San Francisco and what percentage have actually been on a Muni bus? When people who refuse to live in the City drive the taxes that those of us who do live in the City pay does that seem right?

    A lot of things in the City are broken. Muni is just one of them. If you only knew how broken things were you would be frightened.

  • kg


  • Bike.

  • Any strike by any city worker is illegal and will result in people being fired. And a sick out the week of the Giants/Dodgers series in SF? oh that’s real genius, kids.

    another epic FAIL by a failed union leadership who is doing its best to destroy the lives of its own members.


    Send my resume to MTA for the new positions opening up as drivers?


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