SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – It was a very different kind of Cable Car Bell-Ringing Contest Tuesday in San Francisco’s Union Square.
Union brass told grips and conductors not to participate in the 48th annual competition, hosted by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
KCBS Barbara Taylor Reporting:
Cable car grips and conductors typically practiced for months ahead of the competition, to hone their talents in an effort to be crowned champion cable car bell-ringer.
This year, they refused to participate, having apparently been told not to do so by union brass.
Over the years, the contest evolved into popular event that highlighted the significance and nostalgia surrounding San Francisco’s cable cars, which have become known as part of the City’s fabric and culture.
“Our cable car operators have a very challenging job,” offered Muni General Manager Nathaniel Ford. “And we want to take the time to recognize them. Unfortunately, at this time I think we have to speak to the operators’ union to find out why they’re not participating.”
Ford seemed resigned to the fact that there would be no participation by grips or conductors in Tuesday’s contest.
“Well, it seemed like we had one or two individuals who were interested in participating but they haven’t committed themselves as of yet, as of this moment,” he said immediately before the competition began.
One unidentified operator subsequently confirmed he was planning to participate, but ultimately decided against it after being told by the union not to.
That operator said he simply couldn’t go against his union’s wishes.
The contest was expected to proceed, including the amateur competition. The highlight, of course, was always the competition between the grips and operators.
Union officials said they did not order the boycott, and had nothing to do with operators sitting out of Tuesday’s contest.
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