On the first day of the action, hundreds of members of Transport Workers Union Local 250-A called in sick over what workers say amounts to a pay cut. According to Municipal Transit Agency spokesman Paul Rose, 440 out of 600 buses and trolleys and all of the city’s popular cable cars were not in service that day.
A week earlier, Local 250-A members by a vote of 1198-47 rejected the city’s contract proposal. The agreement, which covers more than 2,000 Muni employees, includes a 11.25 percent raise over two years, but is offset by a 7.5 percent increase towards their pension fund.
Operators’ wages have been frozen for three years. The contract would allow the city to replace full-time drivers with part-time employees and requires a five-year wage progression for new hires where none exists now.
“Rather than improving wages and benefits,” said a June 3 statement by Local 250-A, “the vast majority of drivers would be paid less in wages over the life of the agreement.”
At the transit barns at Balboa Park and on 22nd Street, a number of Muni employees said the sickout was spontaneous.
“What we are making isn’t that much given the cost of living,” said Vicky, who has been a Muni driver for over two decades and didn’t want her last name used. “I have friends who are reaching the point where they can’t pay their mortgage. A lot of the passengers understand this and support us.”
“We had to vote it down! They keep taking away more and more with every contract,” an operator with 13 years on the job who asked not to be identified told the Militant.
City authorities and the big-business media immediately condemned the workers’ action. Muni drivers “irresponsibly abandoned their jobs and intentionally disrupted our city’s public transportation system,” stated Mayor Ed Lee. The San Francisco Chronicle ran an editorial June 5 titled “No More Muni Wildcat Strikes,” telling workers to “stay on the job, and get back to bargaining in good faith.”
After full transit service was restored, City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed legal charges with the Public Employment Relations Board, saying Transport Workers Union Local 250-A had privately urged its membership to defeat the agreement and “fomented and supported” an illegal work stoppage.
Muni workers, like all San Francisco city employees, are prohibited from striking. Under Proposition G, approved by city voters in 2010, if union members reject a proposed contract, it goes to an arbitrator.
According to SFMTA spokesman Rose, if the union leadership does not meet with arbitrators by June 15 the old agreement will remain in effect for two years.
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