Say Hello to Muni Union's Not-So-Little Friend: Eric Jaye

Categories: Labor, Politics
Image | Alexia Tsotsis
I'm Eric Jaye! You f**k with me, you f*****g with the best!
When the embattled Transit Workers Union hired former Gavin Newsom political svengali Eric Jaye, many martial analogies ensued. One city politico we talked to predicted labor war. The term "going to the mattresses" was evoked. One fellow political consultant likened the Muni drivers' union's move to "bringing an atomic bomb to a gunfight."

Jaye sidesteps any such language (though he appreciates the "atomic bomb" comment). Like Rodney King, he wonders why everyone can't just get along. But make no mistake: The Transit Workers Union was tired of getting pushed around -- and it hired one of the most effective political operators in the realm to push back. And while Jaye makes his money running campaigns, it seems he's been brought in here to prevent a campaign -- specifically, Supervisor Sean Elsbernd's nascent charter amendment which would assail Muni drivers' pay.

"There's a ballot measure pending and we run campaigns. Unless folks come to their senses, it looks like there's going to be a campaign," Jaye told SF Weekly. "We would like the transit workers to not be the scapegoats for the mismanagement of the municipal railway system."

Jaye confirmed he's been hired on a month-to-month basis, but would probably part company with the Muni union as soon as Elsbernd's charter amendment is no longer a possibility. "We're getting ready for battle. But that doesn't mean we're seeking one."

Elsbernd was not so sure. "Apparently [the union] has money for politics but they don't have any money for the city," he said, referring to the TWU's recent spurning of givebacks that would have saved the city some $15 million. "I look forward to seeing him on the campaign trail."

Jaye -- Newsom's campaign ace for years -- noted that he does not own a car and rides Muni daily. He used the word "demonizing" to describe union opponents' tactics repeatedly, and accused "some politicians" of "pointing fingers." Assailing the Muni drivers, he pointed out, "might be good politics, but it's not good policy." And, finally, he asked why Elsbernd didn't prevent other city departments -- including the mayor -- from pillaging Muni via "work orders."

That's a good question. On the other hand, Eric, you used to work for the mayor. Why didn't you keep him from siphoning money out of Muni and paying his green advisors' six-digit salaries?

"It was news to me we had work orders," said Jaye. "I wasn't involved in the day-to-day running of the city. I run campaigns."

It remains to be seen what kind of campaign he'll be running for the Muni union -- and whether mattresses will indeed be involved.

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