Muni union’s frustrated members to pick new leaders

SF Examiner file photoThe Transport Workers Union Local 250-A is set to elect new leaders Friday.

SF Examiner file photoThe Transport Workers Union Local 250-A is set to elect new leaders Friday.

Following contentious labor negotiations in which rank-and-file members of Muni’s operators union rejected a tentative contract agreement approved by their leaders, the powerful labor bloc is set to select a new slate of leaders next week.

None of the existing leaders of the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A are seeking re-election Friday, said outgoing Secretary-Treasurer Walter Scott.

Scott, who recently turned 60, is retiring from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni. Rafael Cabrera, the union’s president, wants to return to his work at Muni’s cable car barn, Scott said.

While the relationship between SFMTA management and the union’s 2,200 members has long been uneasy, animosity between the two sides hit a high point earlier this year during historic contract negotiations.

The SFMTA secured a reported $41 million in labor savings over three years from the new contract, but only after both groups traded accusations of deception and misinformation by the other side.

Many members of the TWU resented the new deal, voicing their displeasure by overwhelmingly rejecting a tentative contract agreement between agency management and the union’s leadership. Eventually, an independent arbitrator imposed the terms of the contract.

In 2010, the rank-and-file members twice rejected tentative contract concessions agreed upon by union leadership.

Bob Planthold, a Muni activist who closely follows TWU actions, said union leadership has not done a good job in recent years of defending itself against agency accusations.

“Management has targeted the union as kind of a figurehead bogeyman for all their budget problems,” Planthold said. “And the union hasn’t done a good job of responding to those claims. Their silence has allowed the public to view them as greedy.”

Planthold said new leadership at Local 250-A should do a better job of promoting its agenda to the public — that the union is simply interested in providing fair wages for its members.

Eric Williams, a union member who has been a particularly vocal and visible critic of the SFMTA, is among the five candidates running for Cabrera’s former position as union president. Williams was a frequent presence at rallies against management, and expressed his displeasure with the agency on several occasions during the public comment period at the SFMTA’s board of directors meeting.

Other candidates running for president are John Dudley, Victor Grayson, Philip Taylor and Howard Nelson. Attempts to contact the candidates late last week were unsuccessful.

Scott said that the current leadership has not endorsed any specific candidate for president.

Cabrera held the position of president for two years and Scott was secretary-treasurer for seven years. Also stepping down are Executive Vice President Michael Postell and Recording Secretary Aleena Galloway.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

Local 250-A at a glance

2,200: Transport Workers Union Local 250-A members

$41 million: Three-year labor savings in new union contract

$80 million: SFMTA two-year budget deficit

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