Muni Drivers Voting on Union Contract -- and It's Not Looking Good

Oily bus.jpg
Jim Herd
We all vote no on this...
"Sick-out" rumors swirl on heels of contract vote

Starting at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m. and continuing until 5 p.m., Muni's unionized drivers will be voting today on whether to accept or spurn the contract management has put on the table. 

Calls to both management and the union have not yet been returned. But a dozen-odd drivers have said they plan to vote this contract down -- with gusto. 

"I know we're gonna vote it down," says one longtime operator. "It's going down." 

Memorandums of Understanding are beastly complicated things. In fact, they're often rather difficult to understand. But, drivers say, the sticking point for them, was rancor and confusion over pay increases and a commensurate spike in their pension contributions. 

While union members say they were led to believe they'd be earning 5 percent more pay and contributing 5 percent more to their pensions, the deal, as it stands, calls for a 7 percent hike in pension contributions. 

In actuality, increasing pay and pensions by the identical percentage is a money-loser for the city. 

First off, higher salaries mean larger pensions down the road. Second, the city pays additional taxes -- Social Security, Unemployment, and Long-Term Disability -- on those augmented salaries. SF Weekly has been told in past years that the city must spend $1.16 for every dollar it puts toward workers' salaries.  

Regardless, drivers say they're irked that a five-for-five proposition shifted into a five-for-seven. Management, again, has not yet returned our calls. 

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An apt metaphor?
If the union votes down the contract, the matter would be placed in the hands of arbitrators

Disdain with the current contract offer is high enough that rumors have begun circulating of a driver "sick-out" on Monday. Muni workers, like most all San Francisco workers, are forbidden by city charter from going out on strike. But the charter has no bearing on illicit activities such as quasi-sanctioned slow-downs or mass numbers of workers calling in sick. 

In 2010, for example, 20 percent of AC Transit drivers called in sick on Monday, July 19. The union, naturally, denied the existence of a sick-out. In that same year, an all-caps, semi-grammatical flier made the rounds among Muni drivers, urging them to also engage in a sick-out

This did not come to pass, and it remains to be seen what, if anything, will transpire on Monday. 

"I think they should do it," says one driver regarding his brethren. But he doesn't believe they will: "They're too posey."  

My Voice Nation Help

What happens when the city wages a war on private autos in an effort to push citizens on to a public transit system controlled by unions? The city gets held hostage! Public transit will always serve itself BEFORE it serves the needs of the public.  Today's "sick out" will cost the city millions. How's that "Transit First" policy working out for you San Francisco?

Last year the BART strike cost the Bay area $365 Million in worker productivity?
The Millions of dollars that are being wasted on creating "Walkable" and "Bike Friendly" streets have done NOTHING to help the hundreds of thousands of commuters who depend on MUNI everyday.

What are the lessons learned from last years BART strike?

1. The city cannot count on public transit to be there when we need it.
2. "transit first" means unions first, and commuters last. 
3. If BART, CalTrain, or GG Transit fails the entire city will grind to a halt.
4. There has to be redundancy built into our transit system so that the city has a backup plan for commuters.
5. If the city does not have the infrastructure to support private autos then the city stops generating revenue. 

Transit First means FIX PUBLIC TRANSIT FIRST. Not eliminate parking, remove traffic lanes, and build pedestrian plazas first.  


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