Muni operators authorize strike if talks break down

April 23, 2011 1:04:47 AM PDT
On average there are 750,000 commuters a day, on average, use the San Francisco transit system, but their means of transportation could be in jeopardy. Members of the Muni operators union authorized a strike if negotiations with the city -- now in their second month -- don't go as they hope.

Friday's authorization by the Muni operators union is the latest in a series of incidents that may be putting the union in a negative public light.

Union local 250A had authorized its negotiators to strike, struck some as bold, especially given recent bad publicity. There was an operator who was caught on camera ordering passengers off a bus, another was caught texting while driving, and twice cellphone cameras caught malfunctioning doors wide open even as the Muni trains drove on.

Supervisor Scott Wiener witnessed one of those door malfunctions, but says the union has really hurt itself with its decision to authorize a strike.

"To authorize a strike is not productive," said Wiener.

Union workers declined to talk on camera, but union secretary-treasurer Walter Scott, when asked about the negative publicity, told ABC7 over the phone that: "We already have two black eyes and a broken nose. It doesn't make any difference."

Charles Goodyear, a spokes person for Muni, says the city is hoping to scale back Muni's annual budget by between $25 and $50 million.

"We hope that the union leadership will join us in addressing the economic realities that everyone in San Francisco is facing now," said Goodyear.

Public sympathy doesn't seem to be with the union, whose members earn an average of just over $100,000 per year.

"In a recession time, it's hard to stand up for as much pay as you got during the boom years," said rider Michael Laird.

"Every other city employee union has been taking pay cuts, has been increasing pension contributions, has been really chipping in to make sure that we can address our budget problems and TWU is the only union that hasn't done that," said Wiener.

By law, Muni drivers can't strike, but the union says that's up for legal interpretation. Meanwhile, city attorney Dennis Herrera says he would take legal action to prevent a work stoppage.

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