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Driven to Madness
If asked to choose sides on the current Muni debate, I certainly would side with the downtown interests rather than the Transport Workers Union (TWU) after reading "Willie's Wild Ride" (Dec. 27). I happen to be one of the losers in the current scenario, a citizen who chooses to take public transportation downtown rather than drive. But my civic-mindedness is beginning to wear thin. Crowded conditions, late and infrequent service, and rude and uncaring drivers are the usual experiences. Your article, which detailed the incredible deal that the TWU has crafted into the city charter with its work rules and compensation structure, was depressing if not maddening.

Larry Martin would call me a racist, but I question that anyone should be paid $50,000 a year for driving a bus. With a college degree, and five years of work experience downtown averaging 60 hours a week, I continue to aspire to the compensation levels of the average Muni driver. If Muni offered exemplary service, I could see justification in paying its drivers the average of the two highest-paying transit systems as we do now. But the drivers I experience each day are for the most part rude, unsafe, impatient, and seemingly completely devoid of the concept of "public service." And most drivers seem just a little too comfortable with their jobs, as if they all are personally aware of the insulation from rider complaints and public scrutiny that their union contract affords them.

Downtown business provides me with a source of livelihood and the opportunity for advancement. Muni provides me with terrible transportation service. It's absolutely ridiculous that the 1,800 overpaid drivers of the TWU can proclaim their contract above any future discussions when driver absenteeism and fiscal constraints are so much the source of Muni's problems.

Noel Murray
San Francisco

Pay Dirt
George Cothran did an excellent job of parroting the lies of San Francisco's business class, and their demands for massive concessions from Muni employees ("Willie's Wild Ride"). As a result, his future employment prospects must have brightened considerably. Cothran's perspective is typical of American journalism in its role as bird dog for attacks on the living conditions of the working class. According to his perspective, relatively well-paid workers, performing some of the most demanding and tension-filled forms of labor in modern society, appear overcompensated when compared to more atomized wage slaves who have no job security or benefits and earn barely enough to live on as temp workers or restaurant staff. Muni employees appear to be "overpaid" only because the rest of us are paid so poorly.

A chief function of public transit is to move wage slaves to and from work and shopping. Any public transit system that proletarians have to pay to ride on is a massive subsidy for bosses and merchants, a free ride for the rich, and an involuntary gift from the exploited class to their exploiters. Muni employees are under attack because they aren't as atomized as other wage earners and have tremendous potential social power; a Muni strike could bring commerce in the city to a halt.

Short of a strike, Muni workers can engage in on-the-job actions that will guarantee them the support of the majority of Muni riders. Public transit workers in Italy, France, and South Korea have staged wildcat actions, outside of and against the control of the unions, where they kept buses and subways running and let riders on without paying. Letting passengers ride for free would only hurt our common enemies: bosses and politicians.

Willie Brown, his corporate backers, and their negotiating partners in the union apparatus are out to screw Muni employees. The rich and their flunkies want to make us pay for the decline of the infrastructure that we rely on in this shit society -- we should return the favor. If the system has a crisis, let's make employers, landlords, and merchants pay for it. It's not our system; it's not our crisis.

Nestor Makhno
San Francisco

Rules Stand Alone
Salaries of $60,000 plus per year, 16 days a year to play hooky, virtual immunity from unemployment: What a deal for Muni workers! And what a bum deal for the rest of us. Though "Willie's Wild Ride" was an enlightening article on an important topic, it was marred by the excessive opinionating typical of SF Weekly. This story could have told itself.

Elizabeth Tracey
San Francisco

Contrary to Dog Bites ("Like Family!" Jan. 3), the Century City law firm of Christensen, White, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser & Shapiro is not currently working on the Mission Bay project for Catellus Development Corp.


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