munipiece2.jpgSan Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said today he is disappointed that a tentative agreement reached by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and its transit operators’ union was rejected Wednesday by the union’s members.

Members of Transport Workers Union Local 250-A voted overwhelmingly against ratifying the agreement, which had been signed last week by SFMTA management and union representatives. The vote was 944 to 488.

“Obviously we feel disappointed because there has been a genuine effort to have our transit workers understand the needs of the agency,” Lee said.

The agreement came after three months of bargaining between the SFMTA and the union and would have saved the agency a minimum of $21 million over the course of the three-year contract, SFMTA spokesman Charlie Goodyear said.

In accordance with Proposition G–passed by the city’s voters last November–an arbitrator is now responsible for the contract and will have to decide between each side’s final offers on outstanding issues.

The decision of the arbitrator, who began meeting with the two sides this afternoon, is final and binding. The SFMTA said it expects a decision before the Tuesday deadline.

Lee said he would not get involved in the proceedings unless necessary after the arbitration process, but said he hopes the union comes around in the negotiations.

“The ultimate thing I need to keep impressing on the drivers is … our bosses are the residents of the city of San Francisco,” he said. “We need to respect that and understand our jobs are there to serve the public.”

The union leadership put out a statement Wednesday following the announcement that operators had voted down the agreement, blaming the SFMTA and its spokesman Goodyear for “a public–and inaccurate–release of alleged terms and conditions in the agreement.”

TWU Local 250-A President Rafael Cabrera said in the statement, “The actions by management’s spokesman created a sense of mistrust and confusion that was hard to overcome. We specifically agreed that neither side would make public statements about the tentative agreement until we had a chance to present it to our members.”

Goodyear said today, “It was certainly not our intention to prevent in any way the ability of union leadership to go out and talk to their members,” and said the union had five or six days to do so before any statements were released to the press.

“We disagree with the premise that our statement is responsible for yesterday’s vote,” he said.

The union has voted to authorize a strike in case negotiations break down, and is also seeking to overturn Proposition G.

The proposition changed parts of the city charter that ensured that Muni drivers would have the second-highest operator salaries in the country, and it requires that contracts be negotiated through collective bargaining and binding arbitration, similarly to other city employees.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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