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Monday, January 14, 2013

Muni Overtime: Mechanic Earned $140K in OT Last Year, Too

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 1:59 PM

click to enlarge What's this gonna cost? - JIM HERD

This morning, the Chronicle ran a story about a Muni mechanic nearly tripling his salary via a gaudy $164,000 earned in 1,954 overtime hours.

Going through Muni's books is a bit like wandering through one of its vehicles -- you're going to step in something unpleasant very quickly. But reporting that Muni is blowing out its overtime budget -- or even that electrical mechanic Khoa Trinh is earning metric shitloads of overtime pay -- is a bit of a gambling-in-the-casino story.

When it happens every year, you can't be shocked. Muni habitually swallows nearly half of the city's overtime dollars. And Trinh's massive overtime payments aren't new either: In calendar year 2011-12, he took home $139,602 in OT in addition to his $102,000 salary and $16,500 in "other" pay.

See Also: The Muni Death Spiral

Muni Has Neglected Maintenance For Years -- And It Shows

While Trinh's payments are extreme, he's part of a larger trend. As SF Weekly reported in a June 2012 cover story, electrical mechanics like Trinh have doubled their overtime payments in the past several years. Even while their ranks were thinned by 15 percent, their overtime earnings jumped from $3.2 million in 2007 to $6.4 million in 2011. (Fitting in with the pattern, here are Trinh's overtime earnings between '07 and '12: $19,831; $34,040; $35,882; $39,813; $139,602; $163,856.)

It's lopsided earners like Trinh, by the way, who largely account for this jump. Fifty percent of the overtime payments are pocketed by just one-fifth of the workers. As longtime electrical mechanic Armando Guzman told us back in June:

"The culture changed -- people said, 'This is good! We can earn more OT. So they started crafting artificial overtime. We were told to delay the work in a regular shift and leave it for overtime." He claims procedures such as brake jobs, a four-hour operation, were routinely left until workers had already clocked their eight hours of regular time. In one instance, Guzman says his shift supervisor directly told him not to repair a broken bus pedal -- a three-minute job -- because "if we start fixing these little problems, they'll expect us to fix bigger problems."
Stories like Trinh's get the headlines -- and rightfully so. But the problem is larger. When you have chintzy, aging, breakdown-prone equipment being repaired by too few mechanics and a clubby atmosphere in which overtime is doled out as a reward and siphoned to a few favorites, a handful will earn second incomes, and many will pocket a pile. And, remember, someone signed off on this, ostensibly. It sure would be interesting to know why.

But it is, quite literally, no way to run a railroad.

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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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