A campaign by a San Francisco supervisor to limit city transit operator salaries amid a fiscal crisis and service cuts has been gathering momentum, the city supervisor said today.
Supervisor Sean Elsbernd delivered nearly 75,000 signatures to the city elections department this afternoon to place a measure on the November ballot that would reform the way San Francisco Municipal Railway drivers’ salaries are set.
Currently the city charter says drivers must be paid the second-highest salaries of transit operators nationwide. Elsbernd’s charter amendment would set wages through collective bargaining.
Standing aside boxes of signatures, Elsbernd told reporters today that a “great, grassroots effort” enabled the campaign to collect many more than the 47,000 signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot. The San Francisco Elections Department has 30 days to verify the signatures.
“This is an issue that has been plaguing our Muni system for decades,” Elsbernd said.
Under his proposed measure, arbitrators would have to consider the impact of any new contract on Muni riders, as well as the employees and the city, Elsbernd said.
Elsbernd credited the successful signature-gathering campaign with the “palpable frustration at what’s happening every day with Muni.”
He pointed to recent service cuts and fare hikes, as well as Muni operators’ refusal to “make a single concession” in ongoing budget negotiations this year. They are instead receiving a 5 percent pay raise this year, he said.
Elsbernd said the money saved by his measure could go directly to Muni services that benefit riders.
The Transit Workers Union, which represents Muni drivers, has called Elsbernd’s legislation damaging.
“It seeks to spread a message that workers who do not have degrees; however, perform very difficult jobs, do not deserve a decent wage,” the union said in a statement on its website.
Union representatives have said drivers are being scapegoated, and that San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency management is to blame for Muni’s financial woes.
Supervisor David Campos said this afternoon that Elsbernd’s proposal “does not provide real Muni reform.”
“I think it focuses on one area of a very complicated problem,” he said. “I think that what we need is very comprehensive reform, and this is not that.”
Elsbernd said he was confident his measure, which requires a simple majority of voters to approve, would pass in November.