San Francisco's unlicensed Muni drivers are still employed 

Some 48 Muni operators are still without commercial driver’s licenses — but Muni says it is just weeks away from a plan to fire them.

Last fall, The San Francisco Examiner reported that more than 50 operators lacked driver’s licenses, and three had gone without since 2008.

In January, Muni leaders sent a letter to 54 of their operators without licenses, asking them to resolve the situation within two weeks or face termination, according to Muni spokesman Paul Rose.  About a quarter came back with a valid driver’s license and returned to duty. More than 40 did not, but despite the threat of termination, none have yet been fired.

However, Rose said, the agency may begin parting ways with some of its unlicensed drivers within a few weeks. He said the new labor contract, which was rejected by operators but ordered to remain in place by an independent arbiter in June, gives the public transit agency much more leeway on the issue. The contract specifically says having a Class B commercial driver’s license from the Department of Motor Vehicles is a requirement for the job, and if that requirement is not fulfilled, the operator can be terminated.

Rose said transit officials are still figuring out exactly how to implement this new rule.

Of the 48 operators without licenses, 18 have lapsed or suspended licenses, either because they let them expire or because they were suspended due to DUIs that occurred while the driver was not at work.

The remaining 30 have had their licenses suspended because of medical reasons. For the license to be valid, they must pass a check-up once every two years at San Francisco General Hospital. If any of an array of health issues shows up — from high blood sugar to high blood pressure to an uneven heartbeat — the license is immediately suspended until the operator can receive a followup evaluation and clearance.

“Most of the time, they’re off about a week or so until they get the problem resolved,” Rose said.

Some, however, have been off for much longer than that. There remain two operators on the list that have been without a license since 2008, eight since 2009, 13 since last year and 25 since sometime this year, according to Rose. He said those employees continue to collect health benefits as long as they are technically still employed by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Walter Scott III, a spokesman for operators’ union Transport Workers Union, said the union will fight for its members if it feels they are being wrongfully terminated.

He said some medical issues can take weeks or months to clear up, so operators should be given up to a year to deal with them before facing termination. They should also be offered a nondriving job if they would like one, he said.

“Usually the medical issues won’t pop up until late in an operator’s career, so if you’ve got an operator who’s been working for 25 years, has been coming in to work every single day and then runs into a medical problem, you should find a place for him to work until he can rectify that situation,” Scott said.

Rose said he couldn’t comment on exactly how much time the agency will give the operators to clear up the problem, but said it’s likely to be less than a year.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

 

Rules of the road

Dozens of Muni operators do not currently have a valid driver’s license.

  • 2 drivers have been without a license since 2008
  • 8 drivers have been without a license since 2009
  • 13 drivers have been without a license since 2010
  • 25 drivers  have been without a license since sometime this year
  • 48 total Muni drivers lack a valid driver’s license.

Source: San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

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Katie Worth

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