Muni Union Boss Says He'll Ask Drivers to Reconsider Spurning Concessions

Categories: Public Transit
Oily bus.jpg
Jim Herd
You may have figured out that this is the image we use whenever Muni drops the ball. It gets used a lot.
If you're a Muni passenger, this has been the winter of your discontent. And, according to Irwin Lum, president of the Muni drivers' union, many of you have been taking out your frustrations on the brown-sweatered lady or gentleman operating the vehicle. It's easy to see why: Today's front-page Examiner story about drivers rolling in overtime pay while the system is cash-starved and cutting back was just the latest bit of news to make public transit riders see red when they see brown.

Of course, this comes on the heels of last week's union vote to spurn hard-fought concessions that would have saved the city some $15 million -- and then turn around and accept around $8 million in City Charter-mandated raises. That kind of PR isn't just bad, it's Tiger Woods bad.

Lum, who negotiated that ill-fated concession package with the mayor's office, told SF Weekly the union members would meet "sometime this week and decide what to do" -- and he hopes his colleagues will reconsider their "no" vote.

A lot of that, however, depends on why the Muni drivers voted the way they did. Lum feels the union sent his package to defeat because of "mistrust": They worried a one-time agreement for drivers to pay into their pension plan -- which would have saved the city some $9 million -- would have become de rigeur for years to come.

Lum and the drivers are certainly right to be wary of the city looking out for the city's interests. And yet, according to Lum, if the city wanted to mandate this one-time payment every year, it would have to push that through a subsequent union vote. "Our position is that if the city wanted to extend this, they'd have to come back to us and we'd have to vote on it again," affirms Lum.

So, if the union membership voted the way it did because it was mistrustful of the city -- that means members were gravely misinformed. And it also means union leadership didn't do an adequate job of getting the message out that the city cannot unilaterally make a one-time concession an annual tradition.

It will be interesting to hear what Lum tells his colleagues this week. Either way, TWU leadership has a lot of 'splaining to do.

Photo   |   Jim Herd

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