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UPWA SF transit workers find no support from public or union officials from SEIU and SF Labor Council
SF transit workers find no support from public or union officials from SEIU and SF Labor Council
SF transit workers find no support from publicFollowing a three-day sickout that has infuriated the public, Muni’s 1,500 or so operators have found themselves without friends in government, isolated from t… View on www.sfexaminer.com Preview by Yahoo
By Chris Roberts @Cbloggy
• MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
• About 120 out of 600 vehicles were out of service Wednesday, the third day of the Muni sickout.
Following a three-day sickout that has infuriated the public, Muni’s 1,500 or so operators have found themselves without friends in government, isolated from the broader labor movement and out of options — thanks in part to a 2010 voter initiative that changed the way transit workers are paid.
Muni service ran at about 70 percent Wednesday, the lightest day of a three-day sickout staged in protest of a labor dispute between the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and its vehicle operators union. Under the City Charter, Muni workers cannot strike.
Union honchos claimed no association with the sickout, which kept about 120 of 600 vehicles out of service Wednesday.
That’s a lower number of missed runs than Muni experienced on at least two days in May, according to records. Muni officials were “cautiously optimistic” that today’s service would be even closer to normal, agency spokesman Paul Rose said.
However, city officials’ patience is beyond exhausted. Unlike with last year’s two BART strikes, no prominent elected officials have publicly sided with Muni operators.
One of BART’s unions is the politically powerful Service Employees International Union, which is a major force in California politics. Muni’s union, Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, has no such clout.
Following calls Tuesday from Mayor Ed Lee and other key elected officials to end the sickout, City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a complaint Wednesday against Muni’s union with state labor officials.
Muni drivers are currently the sixth-best-paid transit operators in the country, with a maximum wage of $29.52 per hour, said John Haley, the SFMTA’s transit director. The SFMTA’s current contract offer ups that maximum to $32 an hour.
However, increased employee contributions to pensions would lead to a $1.10-per-hour cut in take-home pay, said Local 250-A President Eric Williams.
Muni also suffers from a driver shortage, with over 450 unfilled positions, Rose said.
Voters played a role in the current labor dispute four years ago.
Prior to 2010, a salary survey guaranteed Muni operators the second-highest pay among transit workers in the nation. But that year, voters approved Proposition G, removing the salary survey and sending Muni workers to collective bargaining and then binding arbitration like all other city workers.
There was, however, one major exception. The ballot initiative also inserted language into the arbitration rules that “stack the deck” against worker proposals and make it harder to negotiate, said Jamie Horowitz of the Transport Workers Union’s national offices.
Workers rejected the SFMTA’s contract offer 1,198-47 last week. Wage and pension terms will now be decided by an arbitrator. Meetings are slated to begin Saturday.__._,_.___
UPWA FORUM 6/28 MTA Muni Workers, Union Busting And The Right To Strike Transit/Public Workers Under Attack
MTA Muni Workers, Union Busting And The Right To Strike
Transit/Public Workers Under Attack
Public Forum & Discussion
Saturday June 28, 2014 1:30 PM
Latino Room, Lower Level
San Francisco Main Library
100 Larkin St..Market Near Civic Center BART
San Francisco TWU 250 A transit workers and mechanics
are under a vicious attack by the MTA management and
Mayor Ed Lee. Proposition G passed with the support
of Democratic party politicians like Scott Wiener, former
mayor Gavin Newsom and present mayor Ed Lee is aimed
at destroying the power of the transit workers.
Transit workers have faced speed ups and have to fight
to use a bathroom. Workers who complain to OSHA
about health and safety problems like Dorian Maxwell
are illegally fired by MTA management and Mayor Ed Lee.
Now they are demanding real wage cuts after a three year
wage freeze. There is an epidemic of workplace bullying against
the drivers and mechanics by MTA management to terrorize
and intimidate the workforce.
This is coming after the number of billionaires in San Francisco
has reached 27 yet transit workers are told they have to
take pay cuts with hostile work conditions.
This is what provoked the sick-out at the beginning of
This forum will discuss what is happening at the MTA and
what transit and all workers can do about these increasing
assaults including building a media information campaign
to unite all working people.
Speakers, Discussion and Planning To Fight Back
And Defend Transit Workers/Public Workers and Public Services
Sponsored by United Public Workers For Action http://www.upwa.info
For information call (415)282-1908
6/2 SF Muni Drivers Speakout Rally Today at 1:00 PM MTA Market and Van Ness
Press Conference Press Conference
Monday June 2, 2014 1:00 PM
MTA Market and Van Ness, San Francisco
United Rank And File Drivers
Stop Union Busting Now
TWU 250 A drivers are under attack by Mayor Ed Lee and the MTA
managers who want to workers to pay much more for their pensions.
Mayor Ed Lee former Mayor and Gavin Newsom who pushed Proposition
G which took away the right to bargain on working conditions have attacked MUNI
drivers while supporting subsidies for Twitter and other billion
The same attacks are going on against SF teachers. Jerry Brown and
SFUSD superintendent are telling teachers and para-professionals that
they cannot have a raise after years of pay cuts because they have to
pay more for pensions.
These attacks on workers are combined with bullying on the job and
the firing of OSHA whistleblowers at MUNI like Dorian Maxwell.
United Rank And File Drivers
Stop Union Busting Now!
Union Busting Newsom Pushed Attack On SF TWU 250A MTA Transit Workers-Now Is In Charge Of Busting BART Worker Unions
TWU 250 A Muni drivers win ruling on Prop. G Pushed By Former Mayor Gavin Newsom Attacking Transit Worker Rights
By Michael Cabanatuan
May 4, 2013
Officials for the union representing Muni drivers hailed a ruling Friday that struck down sections of a Muni reform measure designed to curb costly work rules.
Donn Ginoza, administrative law judge for the state Public Employment Relations Board, ordered San Francisco to rescind two portions of the City Charter that were part of Proposition G, which city voters approved in 2010.
The sections in question gave the agency the discretion to make staffing and scheduling decisions in the contract unless the union could show “clear and convincing” evidence that their interests outweighed the public interest, and prohibited any past rules or practices from continuing unless favored by the agency.
Prop. G eliminated a City Charter guarantee that Muni operators would be paid the second-highest salaries in the country and changed or eliminated a number of work rules and practices. It also created an arbitration process that favored “public interest” and gave the city considerable leverage.
The Municipal Transportation Agency, using those new terms, negotiated a contract with Transportation Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents its operators, in 2011. Agency officials said then that deal would save Muni $41 million over the three-year life of the contract. The contract was overwhelmingly rejected by operators but imposed on them by an independent arbitrator using the Prop. G rules.
Challenge to Prop. G
Local 25o-A sued in state court, challenging the legality of the negotiations under Prop. G and also sought to have the federal government withhold funds for the Central Subway because of the dispute. Both efforts were unsuccessful. The union joined with other unions that represent Muni workers to file an unfair labor practice complaint with the Public Employment Relations Board, which administers collective bargaining laws for unionized workers in state public agencies.
Ginoza’s proposed decision, which can be appealed, found that the requirement to prove drivers’ interests outweighed the public’s illegally interfered with the union’s right to bargain on behalf of its employees. Eliminating past agreements and practices had the same effect, he ruled.
Neither the union, the transportation agency nor the city attorney’s office were clear about the implications of the ruling, which was issued April 30 but received late Thursday. Officials with the operators’ union said the decision supported their contention they were illegally targeted in Prop. G.
“It was a calculated attack on our members, the people who make the system work day in and day out,” said Eric Williams, president of Local 250-A.
Kenneth Absolom, an attorney for the union, said the ruling would definitely affect the union’s next negotiations, which will take place in 2014. But he was uncertain of their effect on the current labor agreement.
Union gains leverage
“At the very least,” he said, “this gives the unions some leverage in their dealings with the city.”
City officials said they were still reviewing the decision and considering their options.
“The ruling only dealt with a limited portion of Prop. G,” said Paul Rose, a spokesman for the MTA. “We expect to proceed as normal as we determine how the agency will proceed with the ruling.”
Michael Cabanatuan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: mcabanatuan Twitter: @ctuan
Thursday, October 14, 201030 Comments
Proposition G and the Fix Muni Syndrome
by Matthew Roth
Photo: Myleen Hollero/Orange Photography
As the November election draws near and the bunkers are dug on either side of San Francisco’s Proposition G, the Fix Muni Now ballot measure spearheaded by Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, the rhetoric is escalating, with Mayor Gavin Newsom, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Editorial Board and Elsbernd on one sidedecrying Muni operators for taking raises during a recession, while the San Francisco Bay Guardian and the Muni operators union have focused on Elsbernd, implying he’s a racist pawn of downtown business interests on a mission to erode the power of unions.
While the acrimony is likely to increase, it is unclear just how far Proposition G will go toward “fixing” Muni. If the measure passes, it will eliminate the City Charter provision guaranteeing Muni operators’ salary and benefits are pegged at the average of the top two transit agencies in the country. It would also compel Transit Workers Union (TWU) Local 250-A, which represents Muni operators, to re-write its memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the agency, likely removing a number of work rules and side letters, or components of a contract agreed to by both sides that make stipulations for parking perks, absenteeism and sick-day policies, among others.
“I think that it’s plain good governance to not have a minimum salary set in a charter,” said Dave Snyder, organizer for the Muni Transit Riders’ Union, which has not taken a position on the measure. Snyder noted that even a competing Muni ballot measure proposed by some on the Board of Supervisors and supported by the TWU eliminated the charter provision. That measure never made the ballot, though, as Board PresidentDavid Chiu voted against it in a compromise with Mayor Gavin Newsom on the city’s budget.
Snyder cautioned against believing that the ballot measure would transform Muni overnight. “Taking the salary calculation out of the charter is not going to make sure all the buses leave the yard on time, all the time,” he said. Though he stopped short of saying the phrase “Fix Muni Now” was misleading, he said the public shouldn’t be confused about the limitations of the measure.
Even one of Proposition G’s co-sponsors acknowledged the measure wouldn’t fix Muni. “It’s important not to oversell Prop G. Yes, it’s absolutely necessary, but it won’t fix Muni,” said Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), which also helped pass Propositions E and A to merge Muni with the Department of Parking and Traffic to create the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and then to increase its autonomy from the Board of Supervisors.
Metcalf said Proposition G was merely one part of SPUR’s larger SFMTA reform agenda, but a necessary step toward delivering better transit service. “Prop G is not the first step in improving Muni and it’s not the last step either,” he said. “We have in the last 10 years done a long list of things to try to get San Francisco the kind of transit system it deserves.”
Supervisor Elsbernd disagreed, saying the measure would fix Muni and arguing management at the SFMTA has its hands tied because of the charter guarantees. “I think that [Proposition G] will absolutely improve Muni and free up dollars that are currently not going to service,” he said. Elsbernd noted If the measure passes, negotiators with the SFMTA would likely start preparing for collective bargaining for a new contract with the TWU, given that the current contract expires at the end of June, 2011.
Without the charter rules, said Elsbernd, the SFMTA would immediately save $16 million if it eliminates the trust fund it has set up to pay drivers when their benefits don’t meet the second highest national benefits package and it doesn’t have to give the operators the scheduled raise next year. He also estimated eliminating a number of work rules would save the agency at least $10 million more annually.
Elsbernd highlighted language in Proposition G that he said “was one of the best parts of the measure,” where in the case of arbitration over contract impasse, the arbitrator would be required to consider how the contract would impact Muni service. If the SFMTA felt the arbitrator had not sufficiently addressed the impact of a work rule or salary provision on Muni’s service, the SFMTA could take the issue to court, where a judge would preside over the dispute.
“This should be about making service better, not about making a union happy,” said Elsbernd. “Why in the world should we provide transit service where service is not the most important priority? [Proposition G] gives the riders a seat at the table and the city is there to defend them.”
While TWU President Irwin Lum said the charter provision for their salary had been “working well since 1968,” he said the union supported removing it and bargaining collectively. He bristled, however, at the arbitration language and said it handicapped the union from the start in any negotiation, tipping the balance to management before they’d even sat down at the table. “No other city employee union has it where it tells the negotiator or arbitrator” to account for how the contract would affect the service the membership provides, such as police officer pay tied to crime reductions.
Lum said the ballot measure was little more than “a blame game,” that it deflects attention away from failures at the management level. He also said it wouldn’t compensate for the lack of political will from the SFMTA Board and the Mayor’s Office to come up with a dedicated funding stream for Muni, such as transit tax assessment district. “All it will do is make drivers seem like the only reason why Muni doesn’t perform better.”
He said the SFMTA could stop paying work orders to other agencies, which have increased significantly since the passage of Proposition A in 2007, and the agency would save over $60 million a year, far more than would be saved if Proposition G passes.
Lum also criticized SFMTA CEO Nat Ford’s salary, which, at more than $300,000 base, is the highest of any city official, and compared it to the salaries the operators receive. “At $27.91 an hour, that wage is not over and above Bay Area transit wages,” said Lum “We’re not overpaid and we’re not underpaid. It’s a living wage.” He lamented that voters didn’t have the same opportunity in the measure to vote on Ford’s salary or other members of his executive staff and assumed the public would not pay them as much if they had the option.
According to SFMTA figures, Muni’s 2,000 operators make a combined $200 million in salaries and benefits, while the 100 managers that make up the Municipal Executive Association make $20 million in salaries and benefits. The agency’s annual operating budget this fiscal year is approximately $750 million.
Metcalf declined to say what he thought the senior executives should make, but he noted current salaries are comparable to the industry standard. Dorothy Dugger, BART’s General Manager, made nearly $350,000 in 2009, while John Inglish, head of the Utah Transit Administration, which is much smaller than the SFMTA or BART, made the same last year. Metcalf also said he didn’t think the operators’ salaries would plummet if Proposition G passed.
Metcalf and Snyder argued once the contract was negotiated, the real work would begin, both to improve cooperation between management and the operators’ union, and to identify a steady source of funding for Muni over the long run. There are numerous revenue generating actions the SFMTA board of directors could take to bring in more money, but the body has so far not pursued them. Extending parking meter hours on evenings and Sundays, for instance, was projected to generate $10 million annually, but the board has dropped the idea.
While Sacramento appears willing to leave the state diesel tax alone this year [pdf], sending hundreds of millions in money to transit agencies across the state instead of using the money to backstop the general fund, there is no guarantee the raids won’t resume under a new governor (unless state Proposition 22 passes). The SFMTA had been deprived of nearly $180 million in state money over the past three fiscal years.
“[Proposition G] is necessary, but a lot more is going to have happen. Management and workers are going to need to work together to create a culture where everyone is working toward the same goals of providing great transit service,” said Metcalf. “We’re going to have to do a lot of hard stuff after this, too.”
Wednesday, June 23, 201032 Comments
Mayor Newsom Slams Muni Union Leaders Again, Decries Work Rules
by Matthew Roth on June 23, 2010
Photo: Myleen Hollero/Orange Photography.
Keeping with his public recriminations of TWU Local 250-A, the union representing Muni operators, Mayor Gavin Newsom launched into a tirade today after a press conference, decrying the leadership of the union for “misleading” the rank-and-file. Newsom called the second rejection of wage concessions a mistake and said the entire workforce would be affected by the selfishness of a few at the top.
Newsom had been discussing the various concessions made by other public service unions with reporters when he volunteered his opinion on TWU: “These guys have no respect for reality,” he said. “What they’re doing is thumbing their nose in the face of every other public employee in this city that has stepped up to preserve services and preserve jobs. They’re saying no, we’re better than you, we’re special, we don’t need to do this.”
Newsom said several members of TWU’s Executive Board should be ashamed of themselves, “one in particular,” who did “everything to undermine this.” He didn’t elaborate on which board member, however.
Rather than point fingers at the Board of Supervisors, as he did last week, or call for a re-vote in the union, Newsom seemed resigned to let voters have their say in November, when a voter initiative to strip operator pay, benefits and work rules provisions from the City Charter could be on the ballot. He urged every San Franciscan to sign the petition to qualify the measure and vowed it would pass with an overwhelming majority.
When Chronicle reporter Rachel Gordon asked the Mayor if he had signed the petition himself, he admitted he hadn’t. “I helped draft it,” he said. “I say helped, meaning [Chief of Staff] Steve Kawa in my office was very much involved with a deliberative process with the supervisor to make sure that we were all on the same page in terms of what this initiative called for.”
As he got in to the specifics of the ballot measure and its impact, he said he was more concerned with work rules than he was about collective bargaining for salary.
“The collective bargaining component, to me, was always de minimus, it wasn’t that important, because you can collectively bargain and you’re gonna end up marking to market, which means you’re not going to dramatically change the wage schedule,” he said.
But by changing the work rules, the agency would be able to realize efficiencies that would save service and keep fares stable, he argued.
Despite the rhetoric, though, he didn’t provide specifics about if or when service would be restored, a fundamental concern of the Board of Supervisors and one that could preempt a drawn out battle over rejecting Muni’s budget. The supervisors have threatened to reject any budget that doesn’t restore service.
Had the operators accepted the wage concessions, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which runs Muni, would have saved $18.7 million over two years, which the SFMTA said it would use to reverse a recent ten-percent service cut in part by September 4 and in full by summer 2011.
Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, one of the primary authors of the ballot measure, has been out collecting signatures with an increasingly visible cadre of volunteers at BART stations and public events.
Elsbernd recently told Streetsblog they would collect signatures to qualify the measure regardless of any vote by the union.
Appointment of Board Members
On a different tack, Newsom admitted he was still struggling to find a second person to appoint to the SFMTA’s Board of Directors, which has been short two members since the end of April.
While he said he had chosen one member from the public who had applied to be on the board, he wasn’t having luck with candidates he had been targeting for appointment.
“I’m 0 for 2 with the two people that I wanted,” he said. “One had a conflict that we couldn’t deal with, one said they prefer their existing life and they don’t want to actually do this. I’m still trying to find that final person.”
When asked if he would consider appointing one member while searching for the last, to prevent further cancellations of Board Meetings for failure to attain quorum, Newsom said he would likely take that course of action and make that announcement shortly.
SF Demos Chiu And Compos Push Anti-Labor Ballot Issue Against SF Muni TWU 25A Drivers
S.F. budget talks go late into the night
John Coté,Rachel Gordon, Chronicle Staff Writers
Thursday, July 1, 2010
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and members of the Board of Supervisors worked late into the night Wednesday trying to strike a budget deal after a day of whirlwind negotiations at City Hall.
Even with the lack of an agreement for the fiscal year that starts today, the board’s budget committee and board President David Chiu continued late-night negotiations with the Newsom administration to add back funding for mental health services, substance abuse treatment and other programs the mayor had cut from his $6.5 billion budget.
It remains to be seen whether that funding will become reality, though.
The budget still must be approved by the full board, which takes its first of two votes July 20. Further negotiations with the mayor are expected until then.
“I’m hopeful that things will work out for the best,” said Supervisor John Avalos, who chairs the budget committee.
And they usually do, if past budget negotiations are any indication.
Supervisors were still trying to plug a $39 million hole and had identified all but from $5 million to $10 million to do the job, sources said.
$13 million windfall
Part of that was an unexpected boost when $5.2 million in property transfer tax revenue was announced Wednesday, bringing the larger-than-expected property transfer tax haul to $13 million.
That wasn’t enough to prevent talks primarily involving Newsom, Avalos, Supervisor David Campos and Chiu from stalling Wednesday over proposed ballot measures impacting the budget and the balance of power between the mayor and the board. Those ballot measures were being used as bargaining chips for service restorations.
“We are confident we can reach a balanced budget, but only if the supervisors step back from the brink with these reckless proposals that shred the city’s fiscal solvency and balance of powers,” Newsom’s spokesman Tony Winnicker said.
The most contentious issue appears to be a proposed November ballot measure cosponsored by Chiu and Campos. It would force Muni operators into collective bargaining for their contract rather than guarantee they remain at least the nation’s second-highest-paid transit workers, and it creates a $40 million set-aside for the transit agency from depleted city coffers and transfers to the supervisors some of the mayor’s power to appoint Municipal Transportation Agency board members.
Limits on mayor
Two other proposed measures would strip the mayor of some power in appointing Recreation and Park commissioners and Rent Board members. Supervisors have also proposed three tax measures for the November ballot that the mayor opposes, saying they’ll crush a local economy trying to get on its feet.
Newsom has placed his own measure on the November ballot that would prevent elected city officials from also serving on the Democratic County Central Committee, the local arm of the Democratic Party. It’s seen as a slap at the mayor’s more liberal rivals on the board, four of whom also have seats on the committee.
Negotiations over those proposed ballot measures are intertwined with weeks of hearings in which department heads fought their cases for more funding, and residents pleaded for their programs to be spared.
It often comes down to the hours leading to the budget committee’s vote, with supervisors holding closed-door sessions with mayoral staffers in rounds of high-stakes negotiations.When a scheduled 5 p.m. budget committee meeting was postponed, city Controller Ben Rosenfield, who was serving as referee between supervisors and the mayor, passed a group of City Hall reporters and remarked, “Go get dinner. This is probably going to be a long one.”
E-mail the writers at jcote or rgordon
SF Mayor Newsom, MTA Bosses, Demo Supervisors and City Union Tops Want Muni Drivers To Make Concessions
Newsom: Muni operators key to restoring cuts
Rachel Gordon, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, May 28, 2010
More than half the Muni service cuts enacted earlier this month could be restored if the city’s transit operators agree to cost-saving concessions that their union leaders have tentatively agreed to, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced Thursday.
The rank and file, however, still needs to ratify the proposed deal. Operators rejected a different concessions package in February.
The announcement of a new agreement came less than three weeks after Muni cut service 10 percent – the deepest in agency history – to save an estimated $29 million a year.
Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, with about 2,000 members, is the last city employees union to agree to requested givebacks to help Muni close its deficit.
A date for the ratification vote on the proposal has not been revealed.
If the givebacks are approved, Muni officials say they could restore 55 percent of the lost service Sept. 4, and all the service by July 2011.
Late-night service and community routes, such as the 35-Eureka and 66-Quintara lines, would be restored first, said Muni chief Nathaniel Ford. Express routes also would be bolstered.
The proposed concessions for Muni operators are projected to save close to $19 million over the next two years, Newsom said.
In addition to drivers needing to approve the pact before the service restorations can be made, Newsom said the Board of Supervisors, acting as the Transportation Authority, also must fulfill its promise to give Muni $7 million in sales tax revenue if at least half the service cuts enacted May 8 were reversed.
“I would project we’re very close,” said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, chair of the Transportation Authority.
The Board of Supervisors has threatened to reject Muni’s $750 million budget proposal for the new fiscal year that starts July 1, in part, because of the deep service cuts that have affected virtually every line in the system that has about 700,000 boardings daily.
Muni operators are set to receive an automatic pay hike July 1 amounting to about $9 million, and are in line for a similar raise next year.
While the operators would still get their raises, the additional pay would be offset by savings that include diminishing labor-friendly overtime rules and making it easier for Muni to use part-time drivers, which the union has long opposed, according to sources familiar with the proposed agreement.
Union representatives were not immediately available for comment.
Three months ago, union negotiators for Muni operators reached a different tentative agreement with the mayor’s office on a concessions package valued at nearly $15 million over two years. But members defiantly rejected the proposed deal.
Newsom said the climate is very different, with the Muni operators now being boxed in because they are the last to agree to givebacks.
All of the other public employees unions have agreed to concessions “worth well north of a quarter billion dollars” over the next two years, Newsom said.
The union is under pressure from Newsom, members of the Board of Supervisors, and leaders from other city unions whose members have given back what amounts to a 4 percent-plus salary cut.
In addition, Supervisor Sean Elsbernd is collecting signatures for a November ballot initiative that would remove from the city charter the pay formula that guarantees Muni operators’ wages are at least the second highest in their industry nationally. Under his plan, pay would be set through collective bargaining, with the idea that management would have more leverage to negotiate cost-saving work-rule changes.
Elsbernd said Thursday that he welcomes news of the tentative agreement but has no plans to abandon his initiative drive, which he said is focused on the long-term viability of Muni and not just the short-term fiscal crisis.
Mirkarimi and several of his colleagues are also crafting a ballot measure that they say is also designed for long-term reform. As now drafted, it would force operators into collective bargaining, funnel more money into Muni, and give the Board of Supervisors more authority over Muni while curtailing the mayor’s.
In assessing the situation for Muni operators, Newsom said, “They have a lot at stake. I don’t expect to see what we saw with the last tentative agreement.”
E-mail Rachel Gordon at rgordon
Proposed initiative aims at Muni drivers’ pay “To just focus on operators isn’t right and isn’t fair,”
Proposed initiative aims at Muni drivers’ pay
Rachel Gordon, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Michael Macor / The Chronicle
Muni patrons are facing 10 percent service cuts and price increases for some riders beginning May 1.
A San Francisco supervisor is following through on his plan to curb Muni’s labor costs and on Monday submitted a proposed initiative for the November ballot.
The plan takes direct aim at a controversial salary formula enshrined in the city charter that for more than four decades has guaranteed Muni drivers their spot as the second highest-paid transit operators in the nation.
It also would eliminate a trust fund for Muni operators that has resulted in yearly payouts of up to $3,000 for full-time operators. The fund originally was established to help defray health care costs for dependents, but operators can use that money any way they choose.
Under the proposed charter amendment, the city would be required – in the first contract only – to provide the same health coverage to Muni operators as the majority of other city employees.
Supervisor Sean Elsbernd believes that by making the big-ticket costs of salaries and benefits part of contract negotiations, management may have more leverage to enact changes in work rules, such as scheduling and discipline, to make the system more efficient.
Elsbernd turned his proposal over to the city attorney for official review Monday and hopes to start collecting signatures by month’s end to qualify it for the fall ballot.
He has until July 6 to collect the valid signatures of nearly 47,000 voters registered in the city.
“In order to protect riders against unfair fare increases and unnecessary service cuts, passage of this charter amendment is critical,” Elsbernd said.
While there may be plenty of rider outrage, there are no guarantees when it comes to taking on powerful unions in a pro-labor town.
Elsbernd tried to get the Board of Supervisors to place the proposal on the June ballot, but failed to secure the necessary political support from his colleagues amid opposition from the drivers’ union, the firefighters’ union and the San Francisco Labor Council.
Irwin Lum, president of Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents Muni operators, said Elsbernd’s plan unfairly targets drivers instead of addressing a systemwide reform plan that focuses on Muni’s chronic money problems – most recently driven by deep cuts in state funding – as well as management and oversight issues.
“To just focus on operators isn’t right and isn’t fair,” Lum said. “What this will do is divide people instead of dealing with the bigger issue of funding.”
Elsbernd, however, is convinced that changing the way operator salaries are determined is a crucial step to Muni reform.
Currently, the salary for Muni’s approximately 2,000 operators is based on the average of what operators earn at Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and the Montgomery County Transit System in Rockville, Md. That amounts to a base wage of $29.19 an hour for San Francisco operators.
In the new fiscal year that starts July 1, Muni operators are set to get automatic raises totaling about $8 million. Driver wages and benefits account for about a quarter of the transportation agency’s $768 million annual operating budget.
Mayor Gavin Newsom and Muni management negotiated a tentative agreement with the operators’ union leadership last month that would have cut labor costs by about $15 million over two years to help offset the raise, but the plan was soundly rejected by the rank and file.
Soon after, Muni’s governing board approved 10 percent service cuts to take effect May 1, a hike in the price of monthly Fast Pass for riders who use express buses and cable cars, and an increase in parking fines and fees. Those changes came on top of service cuts and fee increases implemented last year.
Elsbernd has the backing of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, a civic think tank, but many at City Hall and in the transit-advocacy community are taking a much more cautious approach.
“TWU needs to help us address the Municipal Transportation Agency budget situation, and we can do it one of two ways – at the negotiating table or at the ballot box,” said Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who has not taken a position on Elsbernd’s proposal.
He said other ideas may be put forward in coming months to address Muni’s ongoing problems and will have to be considered individually and as a package. “Labor is only one aspect of the structural reform that’s needed.”
Is California keeping people safe at work? Labor advocates say no
Posted by Elizabeth Grossman on May 14, 2014
In 2012, the most recent year for which US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures are available, 375 people died on the job in California – an average occupational fatality rate of more than one person every day. At the same time, research by Worksafe and other California labor advocates shows that while California’s workforce has grown by about 22 percent in the last 20 years, the number of safety inspectors for the 17 million people employed in the state’s 1.34 million workplaces has decreased by about 11 percent. This leaves California – which has the largest workforce of any US state – with the country’s lowest number of inspectors per workers of any of the twenty-one states with state-run occupational safety and health plan that cover private-sector workers. There are now so few California workplace safety inspectors that it would take 173 years for the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) to inspect each workplace in the state just once. This is almost four times longer than it would have taken California inspectors to complete this job in 1992 and means that California has about 10 times fewer inspectors for the state’s workforce than the International Labor Organization recommends.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, states are encouraged to develop and run their own job health and safety programs which are monitored by the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) that provides up to about 50 percent of an approved state’s plan’s operating costs. California and twenty other states plus Puerto Rico currently have plans that cover private and state and local government employees, while four other states and the Virgin Islands have plans that cover only public employees. Given California’s size and its historic and oft-looked to role as a national leader in environmental and other progressive policies, that Cal/OSHA has fallen so far behind in its oversight of workplace safety has potentially serious national implications, say California occupational health and safety experts.
The lack of workplace safety inspectors means that Cal/OSHA is routinely missing its required deadlines for initiating and completing inspections – including after serious incidents and to follow-up on corrections needed after an employer is cited for violations, says Garrett Brown, a recently retired 20-year veteran of Cal/OSHA. The severe understaffing stems from political decision-making that has left positions vacant and failed to effectively direct funding to worker and workplace-safety programs, says Brown, who worked as a field compliance officer for 17.5 years and Special Assistant to the Chief of the Division for his last 2.5 years at Cal/OSHA.
“We have great laws on the books that get completely ignored,” said Worksafe executive director Gail Bateson. For example, Bateson explained, California’s limits for occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals – many of which are more protective than federal regulations – are not being monitored or enforced. According to Worksafe’s Dying at Work in Californiareport, an estimated 451,500 people were injured or became sick on the job in California in 2012, an increase of more than 10,000 since 2011. In addition, Bateson said, the agency is conducting few inspections that address health hazards, which require more time and are more complex than inspections addressing safety hazards alone. This means less enforcement, not only of California’s chemical exposure regulations, but also of the state’s other health standards, such as those addressing ergonomics and noise. Cal/OSHA’s current understaffing has also resulted in what Bateson called “a huge back-log” in following up on citations during any appeal and defense process.
Both Bateson and Brown point out that the true number of work-related injuries and illnesses is likely greater than that reflected in BLS figures. As the most recent AFL-CIO Death on the Jobreport notes of the US national occupational injury and illness numbers for 2012, “Nearly 3.8 million work-related injuries and illnesses were reported, but many injuries are not reported. The true toll is likely two to three times greater, or 7.6 million to 11.4 million injuries a year.” Bateson expressed particular concern about potential underreporting of injuries and illnesses amongtemporary workers, whose numbers have been growing particularly quickly in blue-collar and low-wage manufacturing and service industries.
An additional concern in California is how the lack of occupational health and safety resources is impacting the state’s Latino workforce. Figures compiled by the AFL-CIO report show Latino workers to be particularly at risk for fatal workplace injuries, with an occupational fatality rate that’s 9% higher than the overall national rate for workplace deaths (3.7 per 100,000 for Latino workers compared to 3.4 per 100,000 workers overall). In 2012, California was the state with the second-highest number (after Texas) of Latino worker fatalities and the highest number of foreign-born worker fatalities. Understaffing and insufficient resources at Cal/OSHA, says Brown, has contributed to a lack of inspectors who speak any language besides English. According to Brown, less than 15% of Cal/OSHA inspectors currently have such language skills.
In February, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a formal complaintwith federal OSHA about Cal/OSHA’s lack of staffing, basing its complaint on a report compiled by Brown. The complaint also points out that Cal/OSHA draws no money from the state’s general fund and alleges that available funding is not being adequately allocated to Cal/OSHA programs. PEER executive director Jeff Ruch said that while OSHA has asked PEER for additional information, OSHA has not yet responded to the complaint.
A national trend
This trend of decreasing resources for workplace safety and health inspections is “a national phenomenon,” said Brown. While California currently ranks last in its ratio of inspectors to workplaces and in inspection rate, the federal OSHA now only has enough inspectors to inspect each US workplace once every 139 years, says the AFL-CIO report. Between the state and federal OSHA programs, this means one inspector for every 67,847 workers.
Occupational Safety and Health State Plan Association chair and Administrator for Oregon OSHA Michael Wood points out that as state budgets tightened over the past few years, less money “has been spent to support state OSH plans.” State OSH plans get matching funds from federal OSHA, but Wood explains that it’s been well over a decade since there’s been any meaningful increase in support for state occupational safety and health programs. “Is this having a measureable effect on worker protection? I think it is,” said Wood. Just because every state is not experiencing a “crisis doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem,” he said.
“If this can happen in California, a state that has what’s considered the country’s premier state occupational safety and health plan and under a Democratic administration, it could happen anywhere,” said Brown.
Elizabeth Grossman is the author of Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health, and the Promise of Green Chemistry, High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health, and other books. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications including Scientific American, Yale e360, Environmental Health Perspectives, Ensia, The Washington Post, Salon and The Nation.
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