Firefighters union chief John Hanley speaks at today’s meeting

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd and his proposed June ballot measure that would end the practice of paying Muni workers the second-highest wage in the nation found themselves in a political pickle on Thursday: other labor representatives, including the usually-moderate (and ergo friendly to Elsbernd) firefighters union Local 798 said they will fight tooth and nail to “kill off” the charter amendment before it reaches the ballot.

In Elsbernd’s words, the charter amendment put Muni’s 2,200 employees “on a level playing field” with other city employees: allowing city negotiators to set Muni drivers’ wages through collective bargaining, rather than relying on the nationwide survey of what drivers earn at other transit authorities.

It would also end the practice of Muni drivers receiving a $3,000 yearly paycheck intended to offset what drivers pay out of pocket for dependent healthcare (it’s worth noting that about 40 percent of the drivers receiving the check do not have dependents).

Eliminating the yearly paycheck alone would save the city $1.5 million, according to Elsbernd.

Predictably, representatives from the Transit Workers Union and Local 2 (which represents hotel workers) spoke out against the measure and asked Elsbernd to kill it. Less predictable was the vocal opposition from firefighters union chief John Hanley, who branded Elsbernd’s measure “an attack on unions — an attack on two unions.”

“It’s not fair to penalize one group of workers,” said Hanley, whose own union’s work rules are subject of another proposed ballot measure. “It’s not fair, and we will fight it.”

Discussion and possible movement of the charter amendment forward to the full board was delayed for another week, but not before Supervisor Eric Mar said he would oppose the measure, and also not before Elsbernd said the union representatives are acting in “bad faith,” ahead of a scheduled meeting about the measure on Monday.

“They said, ‘We’ll talk to you, but we want you to kill it’ — that’s beyond hypocritical,” Elsbernd said later. “what will (Mar et al) say to their constituents when Muni workers get their $3,000 bonuses again? Have fun with that conversation, Eric”

Mar and Rules Committee chair David Campos could vote next week to table the measure, essentially killing it, a move Elsbernd said would be “undemocratic.”

There is some agreement that the city pays too much for Muni, just not exactly where. Campos is also sponsor of a measure that would audit the Municipal Transit Agency’s managements’ salaries for the first time 14 years.

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