Outspoken cable car operator Eric Williams to lead transit union

Courtesy of SF Public PressNew direction: Eric Williams will be the next leader of the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A.

A cable car worker with a history of making critical statements about city policies has been named president of Muni’s powerful operators union.

Eric Williams won a five-person race to succeed Rafael Cabrera as president of the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents 2,200 Muni operators. Cabrera, along with the rest of the union’s current leadership, elected not to run for re-election in the vote, which was held on Friday.

Williams participated in several rallies last year against Muni, and, more specifically, against Proposition G, a voter-passed initiative that gave management much more leverage in contract negotiations.

Bob Planthold, a transit activist with strong ties to the labor community, said Williams will likely make a strong push for policies favored by the rank-and-file members of the union.

Attempts to contact Williams at Muni’s cable car barn on Monday were not successful.

The union has long had a tense relationship with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni. But the past two years has also seen a rift grow between leadership at the union and its members. Earlier this year, union members failed to ratify a tentative contract agreement between management and TWU leaders. Last year, the members twice rejected tentative labor concessions approved by their leadership.

Tom Nolan, chairman of the SFMTA’s board of directors, said that it is clear that union members have not been happy with SFMTA management or the TWU leadership.

Ed Reiskin, SFMTA executive director, was scheduled to speak with Williams on Monday.

Walter Scott, the union’s outgoing secretary-treasurer, said he thinks management and Williams can develop a good rapport.

“They’ll probably have to feel each other out for a little while, but I think they can make it work,” said Scott, who is retiring from the SFMTA. “But Eric has made it clear that he’s about the membership and its contract, and he’s about making the SFMTA abide by that contract.”

Joining Williams on the leadership team will be Bernard Broughton as secretary-treasurer, Ron Austin as executive vice president and Ron Mitchell as recording secretary. Roughly 1,300 union members voted in the election.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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