Muni’s $2 billion in federal funds safe

Transport Workers Union Local 250-A lawyers argued that Proposition G violated federal laws regarding a union’s bargaining rights. (Examiner file photo)Transport Workers Union Local 250-A lawyers argued that Proposition G violated federal laws regarding a union’s bargaining rights. (Examiner file photo)

A federal labor official has dismissed a challenge by Muni operators that sought to invalidate much of the voter-approved measure that gave the transit agency more leverage in negotiating contracts.

The Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents about 2,000 Muni operators, filed the challenge in May with the Department of Labor in an effort to neuter Proposition G.

Union lawyers argued to the Department of Labor that Prop. G violated federal laws regarding a union’s bargaining rights. If the Department of Labor had agreed, it could have recommended that the Federal Transit Administration suspend all funding for San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency projects — a total of $2 billion.

But that did not happen. J. Douglas Marchant of the Department of Labor rejected the union’s two main claims — that Prop. G gives management too much control over work rules such as scheduling and assignment staffing, and that it unfairly negates past practices achieved under prior agreements.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who helped write Prop. G, said he was not surprised the union’s challenge was rejected.

“When we drafted Proposition G, we knew what we were doing was legally sound,” Elsbernd said. “This suit is completely frivolous, and I have no idea why the union continues to do this.”

Spokesman Paul Rose of the SFMTA, which manages Muni, said the agency was pleased that the department ruled in its favor.

Despite the federal setback, Local 250-A officials remained upbeat that a second challenge against Prop. G at the state level would succeed. Local 250-A spokesman Jamie Horwitz said that claim will be heard by the California Public Employee Relations Board in February, and the union remains confident in its case.

Prop. G, approved by 65 percent of San Francisco voters in 2010, allowed agency management to negotiate its contract with Local 250-A through collective bargaining. Prior to that, many provisions of the union’s contract were enshrined in the City Charter and exempt from negotiation.

In May, the SFMTA and union leaders agreed to a new contract that the union’s members failed to ratify. An independent arbitrator subsequently imposed the terms of the contract, which an SFMTA representative said should save the agency $41 million over three years.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

Transportation impact

Transport Workers Union Local 250-A has also filed a Prop. G challenge with the state.

$2 billion: Federal funding for SFMTA projects that could have been halted if federal challenge was upheld
$41 million: Three-year savings identified by the SFMTA through labor negotiations with union
2,000: Muni operators represented by union

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