Supervisor wants to eliminate Muni salary provision


Bright and early on Thursday morning, Supervisor Sean Elsbernd began greeting Muni riders, collecting signatures for a measure he hopes to put on the November ballot.

Right now, the city charter requires that Muni operators are at least the second highest paid in the nation.

"This year, drivers are set to receive at least a $9 million pay raise, while we have to cut service 10 percent and are talking about fare increases," Elsbernd said.

Elsbernd wants to change the charter's salary guarantee and treat Muni drivers like all other city employees whose paychecks are set at the bargaining table.

"I think it's not a bad way to arrive at wages and benefits," Muni rider Anne Jenkins said.

Perhaps more significant than the salary reform, the proposed initiative would eliminate arcane work rules that cost Muni millions.

For example, drivers can now earn overtime pay before actually working 40 hours a week and operators with seniority can drive just one trip a day and still earn full-time pay.

In February, transit workers voted down a tentative agreement calling for $15 million in concessions to help the city's $500 million budget deficit.

Mayor Gavin Newsom believes the proposed ballot measure may cause them to reconsider.

"I think it's in their best interest to step up and do the right thing. That takes pressure off the need to see this on the ballot," he said.

Drivers feel like they're being scapegoats for all the systems problems.

"It's just a tradition, a long-standing tradition to hate Muni," bus driver Ron Wrinkle said. "This is probably the toughest city in the world to drive a bus in and we're not asking to be No. 1 in pay," said.

That argument doesn't convince people signing the petition. About $47,000 signatures are needed by July 6 to qualify for the November ballot.

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