The union representing Muni operators is currently negotiating a new contract with city officials. (Ellie Doyen/ Special to S.F. Examiner)

After suspension, Muni union president brought back into contract talks with City Hall

Muni’s operator union is in receivership. Its executive board suspended. An operator shortage looms in the backdrop, leaving San Franciscans’ commuter service hanging in the balance.

And as these blows to the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A mount, its representatives were expected to sit across the table from City Hall and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to negotiate a contract for its 2,000 bus and train workers.

Now, some normalcy may return to Muni’s operator union, at least temporarily.

Roger Marenco, Local 250-A’s controversial president, will re-take the reigns of contract negotiations, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.

Marenco was reinstated by the Transport Workers Union of America just weeks after he was suspended on unexplained charges brought by Local 250-A’s executive board, his political rivals.

His removal left Muni workers spinning, wondering just what was going on.

And in the midst of this turmoil, an effort by a rival union to decertify the TWU national’s affiliation with Local 250-A started bubbling up within the Muni workers’ ranks, according to insiders.

Heading off that effort, the TWU national revealed Marenco’s reinstatement to Muni operators at their regular meeting Wednesday night, according to union insiders.

Local 250-A is still under receivership by the TWU national, however, which has the power to “remove” Marenco and any member of the union’s executive board at any time.

In a letter to union members, the TWU national wrote Local 250-A was rife with “infighting” and “dysfunction” between an old guard of the union’s leadership and Marenco, an up-and-coming union leader with hundreds of dissatisfied Muni operators at his back.

Many of those operators were hired after 2014, and complain a contract negotiated by the previous president has hampered their pay. Instead of taking 14 months to reach full salary, it now takes them four to five years.

The City’s Budget Legislative Analyst has identified that delay as the root of the current Muni operator shortage, which is caused by agency problems not only in hiring operators, but in keeping them. Improving worker retention would like help improve Muni service, the analyst concluded in a December report.

Late Wednesday night at City College of San Francisco’s Evans Campus, “Smooth Operator” by Sade serenaded some 400 workers. All had gathered at Local 250-A’s scheduled meeting to hear the fate of their union.

Marenco proclaimed to the crowd, “My name is Roger Marenco, I am the president of Local 250-A, and I am not dead.” The workers applauded.

Curtis Tate, an administrative vice president at TWU national, told the Muni operators that receivership of Local 250-A would not last any longer than a year-and-a-half, and most likely far less than that. He tasked members with standing united against the decertification effort by the rival union.

And, while he said TWU national would be in the room with City Hall during negotiations, Local 250-A would lead the talks, including Marenco and his political rival, Secretary Treasurer Terrence Hall.

“Let me be clear: The International is not going to come in here and negotiate your contract,” Tate told the union members. “That would be stupid.”

Instead, he said, the union members should remember their united goal: To negotiate the best contract possible with The City of San Francisco.

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