Can Anything Stop 'Fix Muni Now'?

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Supervisor Sean Elsbernd yesterday turned in his trove of signatures for the "Fix Muni Now" petition, which will almost certainly qualify the transit reform measure for the ballot. And once it's on the ballot, it's hard to foresee a scenario in which the measure would lose -- as the supervisor was happy to point out.

The measure would eliminate a strange exception enjoyed by the Transit Workers Union, who don't engage in collective bargaining but instead earn at least the second-highest salary in the nation based on provisions in the city charter.

The most powerful portion of the "Fix Muni Now" legislation doesn't deal with money, however. If it were to pass, drivers could well earn just as much or more -- but during the give and take of collective bargaining, TWU employees may be compelled to modify or discard a number of archaic, unproductive "work rules" which bind Muni's hands and cost the city millions.

In fact, if the city and the Muni drivers go into binding arbitration, the union would have to justify why its existing work rules "outweigh the public's interest in effective, efficient, and reliable transit service and [are] consistent with best practices," to quote directly from the proposed legislation. This, essentially, is the backbone of "Fix Muni Now."

A potential second Muni reform measure introduced by progressive Supervisors David Chiu, David Campos, Ross Mirkarimi, and Eric Mar also would also force drivers into collective bargaining -- and take aim at a number of Muni management woes Elsbernd's measure doesn't touch. Campos, however, specifically objected to the aforementioned "backbone," objecting to putting the onus on workers. This has lead to the leadership of the Muni drivers' union actually coming out in support of the progressive measure

And Elsbernd thinks this is a good thing -- for him. He predicts voters will still overwhelmingly vote for his measure, even if Muni halves its service cuts -- as it this week promised to do. Any money or effort the TWU pours into the effort may not offset the vile reputation the union has earned with the general public based on its repeated spurning of concessions --  and status as the only city union to vote down give-backs.

Will voters be confused by potentially having two Muni reform initiatives on the next ballot. Perhaps not. "One of them will be supported by the union and one of them won't," said Elsbernd. "That's all it needs."
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