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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Who Will Be Thrown Under the Bus? Supe, Muni Union Up Ante in Duel.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 7, 2010 at 12:01 AM

click to enlarge Lo, what's this on my seat? Ah, a polemic!
  • Lo, what's this on my seat? Ah, a polemic!
Muni riders yesterday may have discovered something unexpected on their seats -- no, not that.

Thousands of pamphlets penned by Transportation Workers Union president Irwin Lum decrying Supervisor Sean Elsbernd and a recent article written about him in the San Francisco Chronicle littered the buses and trains. Elsbernd, you may recall, has not endeared himself to the Muni drivers with a proposed Charter Amendment that would remove language guaranteeing Muni operators be paid as much or more as the second-highest compensated drivers in America from the City Charter.

In a nutshell, here's what each side says:

The Muni union claims that, unlike virtually every other city union, its workers do not receive the 75 percent coverage of the Kaiser rate for dependants (Elsbernd concurs). The union, then, claims the up to $3,000 its drivers receive instead is meant as "a reimbursement of the health care coverage costs that a driver pays throughout the year to cover his/her family." And here Elsbernd objects.

"How many of their members don't have dependents but still get that $3,000 bonus?" he asks. "And how many get coverage through a spouse? And do those employees give their $3,000 back? Of course not."

But Elsbernd said the argument about "bonuses" is a red herring. He says he'd like to sit down and negotiate Muni salaries like the city does with other unions -- but he can't, because their No. 2 billing is enshrined in the city charter.

Lum's letter, meanwhile, claims the status quo Elsbernd is railing against saves the city "an estimated $5 to $8 million per year." Our calls to Lum querying who, exactly, is doing this estimating and how those numbers were derived has not yet been returned. Elsbernd would like to know, too -- and he said he doesn't believe that total "for a second."

Finally, Lum's letter says Elsbernd is in need of a "history lesson" as the current labor situation has staved off a Muni strike since its inception in 1967. Elsbernd saw this passage as an implicit threat to strike if the union is forced to accept changes not to its liking -- and offered Lum a "history lesson" of his own.

"He might want to read the City Charter -- and he'll see that any public employee that strikes is fired," said Elsbernd. "And we're not touching that section."

Photo   |   Troy Holden

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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