I've been busy lately with Other Things Besides Blogs, and frankly, watching the sheer amount of lying and acrimony going on this election season has been truly depressing to follow.
But even in San Francisco, the bastion of the hyperbolic junk mailer, the campaign put out by the Transport Workers Union Local 250 A and their well funded union allies (locally and national), have set a new standard for campaign bullsh*t. It's mostly "the management sucks " and "ooh poor us stop picking on us." Completely full of sh*t and devoid of facts, but that sells in SF.
It's not unexpected. There's no way that TWU, and their big money pals would let a simple reform to (gasp!) have TWU collectively bargain just like every other union in the public and private sector be changed. Nor would they allow for Muni's owner/riders to demand that work rules function to keep Muni safe for workers AND cost efficient as well so services don't get cut
Let's review the history of the folks sending you this crap in the mail and see how much we can trust them and anything they say:
-TWU is the union that defended the worst drivers in the system, and went to court to try and prevent the press from exposing these folks' bad behavior, including Muni's worst.
-TWU is the union, in concert with its allies at the San Francisco Labor Council, forced major concessions on the 2007 Prop. A measure (ensuring it would not perform as advertised), then a year later, reneged on even the few changes they agreed to at the time, threatening labor actions that would delay Muni owner/riders. Wow, classy. Force a compromise, then backtrack on the deal a year later? Who's the bully now?
It gets better- the political consultant who worked to pass the weakened Prop. A is also the consultant working to defeat Prop. G - Stearns Consulting. Wow.
-TWU Local 200, not to be outdone, stuck it to riders with a sickout because they didn't get their pay raises sooner than already planned also during the campaign for 2007's Prop. A.
Remember, Prop. A was gutted on behalf of powerful union leaders. See a pattern here? "Compromise" with labr ends up being "Do as we demand, and we'll stick it to you anyway." Such "victims."
-When TWU's bosses ordered an illegal labor action shutting down a morning commute last year, your humble Muni blogger dared stick up for Muni's owner/riders. In response, one of the more eloquent members of TWU told us off, saying "get a damn car." Clas-SEE. More contempt for the Muni Owner/Riders.
-TWU is the union that consistently thinks its job is to back the few bad drivers - not the majority who are good. WTF?
Don't reward the good guys and gals with merit pay or bonuses for outstanding rider service - backing the bad ones is SOP at the TWU. When a Muni operator used the PA system to berate a Muni rider (a SUPERVISOR no less), not only did TWU back the driver when said rider filed a complaint, they endorsed his opponent in the campaign for daring to file a complaint. Wow.
-TWU is the union that refused not once, but twice voted against mild, one time only concessions (not affecting their guaranteed pay bump), while every other city union, including those representing the lowest paid workers in SF, did so to save city services in a crisis.
Even other unions at Muni didn't get this, and instead, watched as TWU collected its pay increase. That's gotta hurt if you're a social worker or a janitor or one of the folks laid off at Muni in charge of washing buses.
-TWU is the union that ordered its operators to pull out of the 50 year old Cable Car Bell Ringing contest, ruining a tradition loved by locals and tourists. There's no other way to interpret the message they are sending to the Muni owner/riders except "F*ck You!" (as my friend at the SF Weekly points out.) This is the way you win friends in an election year?
-When Muni made a mild service restoration earlier this year, it was none other than the TWU leadership who stoop up against restoring the service cuts. That's right, TWU was actively fighting for Muni cuts. Remember this when you get some piece of dishonest junk mail laden with bullsh*t claiming that the TWU is pro-owner/rider from Stearns Consulting.
(BTW, read in the linked memo about how they no longer honor "Operator of the Month" - another sign they just can't bring themselves to celebrate good operators.)
-TWU is the union leadership that engaged in illegal campaigning on City Property, in defiance of every legal opinion and law out there on this issue. They had to stoop to illegal campaigning to get your vote. For shame.
Need I go on? I think you get the picture - you simply cannot trust the slick mailers Stearns Consulting and the TWU laders are pumping out. They don't give a damn about you, they don't give a damn about the majority of good operators, and they don't give a damn about Muni.
They are in this for their own self interests. They have a record of not keeping their word, not being truthful and using the San Francisco Labor Council to bully anyone who suggests the radical notion that Muni owner/riders' interests be put first, and that the function of a transit agency is to provide safe, reliable transit - and not be simply an entitlement program.
Since the main arguments against Prop. G tend to be vague, hysterical BS about how this "hurts" Muni operators and service, and crybaby rhetoric, let's review some actual facts. I realize for TWU leadership this is considered "racist" or "anti worker" but I think by now we realize just how honest these folks are.
First, do recall that I was originally very much against this measure. I even called Sup. Elsbernd some unfortunate names at the time, because I hadn't done my homework and was suspect of its goals. You can find many times when I've said that "driver pay" is not the only reason that Muni has troubles. Excessive overtime pay and the "pay me not to work" nonsense, however is ONE reason it has problems.
Then I did far more research that most journalists in this town on Muni, labor policies, labor law, and the like for the Muni Death Spiral, and after all that work, I, as an anti-G person, changed my mind, and decided it was a difficult, but necessary fix. It is, however, one of many that need to happen, either at the MTA or the ballot box.
Second, let's be clear-there is nothing in this measure that says operator pay will go down (despite what the Bay Citizen says). No one likes me to say this, but operator pay under collective bargaining could just easily go up if in the end Muni gets a better handle on the excessive overtime that is killing the system. Even more important, you get rid of the "pay me not to work" rule that screws over riders AND operators and the savings literally roll in.
In fact, we could easily have a system where we have our best operators, who are out there kicking ass on behalf of the public, to get a bonus for being awesome. Yes, it can happen. So don't believe this "victimization" stuff TWU's putting out - it's just not true.
Third, many people are using a straw man argument that since this measure does not address EVERY SINGLE PROBLEM with Muni, we can't approve it. Bullsh*t. There is no doubt amongst anyone with any clue about Muni that there are many Big Problems that need to be fixed, and any reader of this blog or its archives know I've been the one sounding the alarm on 'em: Bloated management. State raids on local funds. State raids on the state transit budget. Raids by other departments on Muni's budget locally. No stable revenues to replace said raids. Lost fares. Lost parking meter fees. Crime on Muni. Aging technology. And so on.
Just because this measure only deals with one aspect does not make it invalid. More importantly, so-called "progressives" kept claiming they had some Super Duper Fix Muni Everywhere measure that would Solve Everything.
After being talked and talked and talked about with endless Supervisors posturing on the issue, guess what happened?
Sup. David Chiu tossed it in the dustbin of history, part of a bargain with Mayor Newsom. Whom we all know to be oh-so-pro-Muni. And honest.
So to summarize: Progressives had a chance to do something about Muni. Progressives could have even worked with Sup. Elsbernd to make a plan that would have universal support (like we had for the Hospital Bond in 2008). Progressives instead fumbled the ball, and chose back room deals, which have produced…nothing.
Finally, let me say this: After over 5 years of following Muni as a citizen/owner/rider, I have to say that this fall we have to assert ourselves as the True Owners of Muni, and remind everyone from the Mayor to the MTA to Muni to all those who work for Muni, that we are the owners of Muni and it is their job to work for us.
We are more than happy to reward professionals with great pay and benefits, if that means we also have a workforce that is helping us make this the best transit system in the country.
We are not, however, an endless supply of free money, and we will not see our system run into the ground for the sake of a few union leaders who clearly do not understand who they really work for.