SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – San Francisco Municipal Railway’s transit operators’ union has informed Muni officials that its members have voted to authorize a strike if labor negotiations break down, a Muni spokesman said Friday. The move comes despite the fact that the union’s current contract has a no-strike clause.

Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents the roughly 2,200 operators of Muni’s buses and light-rail vehicles, began a vote last Friday that would authorize its leaders to call a strike, union Secretary-Treasurer Walter Scott said.

Scott said Friday that he could not get into the specifics of the vote, which ended Thursday, until union officials are able to notify all of their members of the results.

But Muni spokesman Charlie Goodyear confirmed that the union informed San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency management that the strike authorization was approved.

The vote came after a general membership meeting last month in which concerns were raised about clauses in the city charter that he said have not been honored by the SFMTA, but the union has not actually threatened to strike, Scott said.

The union’s current contract has a no-strike clause, but Scott said earlier this week that the clause is “open for legal interpretation” and has “never been tested.”

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement following news of the strike authorization that his office “will take appropriate legal recourse” in the event of a threatened or actual strike.

Herrera said the terms of the current agreement establish procedures for binding arbitration before a neutral third party to resolve bargaining impasses.

“We hope and expect that TWU Local 250-A will abide by the terms of the contract and the (city) charter as they seek to resolve their differences with the SFMTA,” Herrera said.

The vote comes during the second month of negotiations between the two sides, Goodyear said.

The agency and union are “working through each other’s proposals and suggestions,” he said. “Both sides seem to be working constructively here.”

Scott said he also “felt pretty good about the process and how it’s going with the MTA negotiating team.”

The negotiations between the two sides are the first since San Francisco voters approved Proposition G last November.

The proposition changed parts of the city charter that required Muni drivers to be paid the second-highest operator salaries in the country, and requires contracts be negotiated through collective bargaining and binding arbitration, similar to other city employees.

Some city officials have been critical of the union’s decision to vote to authorize a strike.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Scott Wiener called it “incredibly tone deaf.”

Wiener said the passage of Proposition G provides “a unique opportunity to reform Muni” and “an opportunity in a horrific budget year to help the MTA save some money.”

The agency, which faces a projected budget deficit of about $18 million, is proposing to save money by eliminating inefficient work rules and making changes to the salaries and benefits of its employees, Goodyear said.

He said the average transit operator currently makes about $101,000 per year in salary and benefits.

Scott said the union was open to making concessions, including contributing to their retirement benefits and agreeing to a wage freeze.

(Copyright 2011 by CBSSan Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

Comments (14)
  1. Ken Riley says:

    The transit union employees have taken another step towards their own demise. How dare they ask for more?!?!?
    The entire country is putting all unions on public notice. Don’t they watch the news?
    I hope the Supervisors don’t cave in and give them another big contract that will saddle our debt for generations to come.

    1. Aretta Steptoe says:

      You are such a hater…have you ever driven anything other than you mouth. Think about this…It take a very brave person to take people like you up and down the road, in a safe a timely fashion…Before you open your mouth. Get hired as a Transit Operator. Drive for 6 months…then ask for a pay raise…there is no dollar amount that can be placed on this position…you will cry. Bleed and be hurt in ways no one should have to face…Think about this…Can you drive 9 hours a day five days a week…In 9 Hours you can drive from here to Los Angeles, CA…Oh what a Hater…Violations of their MOU, means = Strike…You can’t have your cake and eat it too…Hater……

    2. Reality Check says:

      With the economy in the condition that it is and most other employees taking pay cuts, I have to ask what are these drivers SMOKING. Whatever it is has to be more potent than medicinal marijuana. The SF cops make less than the bus drivers make. Honestly, do any bus drivers need to be making $100K, NO!!!

  2. mk says:

    WIth all the accidents, running over pedestrians, texting while driving, and other issues they authorize a strike?

    We the people authirize union busting. Enough with laziness and socialism! Start pulling your own weight for once.

  3. genomega1 says:

    If they go on strike fire them, I’m sure thousands would line up for a job making that kind of money.

  4. ptown says:

    will the city have the courage to stand up to the union and fire any striking worker? Realistically i doubt it. They will bow to the union’s demands and count on the cities residence to continue accepting overpriced poor services.

  5. Aretta Carthen Steptoe-Jones says:

    Do you really think they can find 2500 driver that easy…And train them up to roll right out…You think he present crew is a have not seen anything yet…Please don;t believe everything MTA is telling you folks…They are covering their assets…And that Driver whom they fired teeing…That violation happen over a year ago…she admitted her guilt and served 3 days off…This is going to a legal issue for the MTA…Think about MYA covering their assets with lies…

    1. Reality Check says:

      They do not have 2,500 drivers first off. Also they have a “NO STRIKE” clause in their contract. So, if they strike they and not the city or MTA are in violation of the contract.

  6. Aretta Carthen Steptoe-Jones says:

    Mr /Mrs genomega1…Your words…If they go on strike fire them, I’m sure thousands would line up for a job making that kind of money

    My response….Oh really…Why be such a hater…Do you understand what it means to be in a Union…If it was not for Unions, Your salary may not be as great as it is (if you are working)…And would you like someone beating up your position/work…Such as you have just done against transit operators…Think about it!

    1. Reality Check says:

      Also, I am a supporter of unions. But you are incapable of forming a cogent argument so it would be nice if you would stop making inane comments as you are only hurting the cause of unions. Also, in this case the drivers are wrong and need to stop being myopic. Everyone is out against them and they really need to play this smart or they will end up getting smashed.

  7. jon says:

    If the job is that stressful to u, area Jones, find another one and stop trying to hold this city hostage to ur demands. I don’t see ANY other union even considering this step, not even the ignorants of SEIU

  8. Gerhard Schneider says:

    There are 6 basic duties for a Muni Worker.
    1. Press the Gas or Brake pedal.
    2. Turn Right or Left.
    3. Open or Close the door.
    4. Drive the exact same route everyday.
    5. Stop if you see people at a bus stop.
    6. Take a break every 30 minutes.

    So Miss Aretta, it would be very easy to find 2500 people that can drive for a very good paying job. There are millions of drivers in California alone. It will be easier to find people that can follow the 6 Basic Steps to be a Muni Driver. (See above).
    Signed, Gerhardt (Former Bus Driver).
    ps: I know about danger, I drove in Detroit Michigan.

  9. Tony Balsamo says:

    @Aretta, I agree with Jon, don’t make taxpayers pay more tax dollars. If it’s too stressful and you don’t want to do it…..QUIT and find another job.

    @Gerhard, you are too funny. Add #7 “Text while driving.”

  10. Jack Reisner says:

    I can’t even count how many times I have been left/not-picked up by a MUNI bus. Or the bus didn’t even show up! The drivers are unskilled, snotty, and give “deals” according to race. I wonder why ANY of them even GET payed. Worst mass transit entity in the world!

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