Muni Parking and Traffic workers protest outside SFMTA headquarters on Thursday, May 2, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Parking control officers protest assaults on ticket-writers

Union calling for employee safety committee as contract talks continue

Parking control officers say they are fed up with being punched and attacked by angry drivers.

At a protest ouside the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s headquarters at 1 South Van Ness on Thursday, those parking control officers called for fines for assaulting them to be raised to $10,000, the same amount the state penal code levies against people who assault transit operators.

Their Muni driver peers are protected by the law, these parking control officers said, but they are not.

And other workers across The City’s transportation agency — from station agents to crossing guards — are also saying not enough is done to make them safe.

Roughly a hundred SEIU 1021 union members adorned in purple shirts joined the picket Thursday afternoon, hoping to push the agency to take their safety “seriously,” they said.

“We’ve got to rise up, shut it down, San Francisco is a union town!” they chanted, in unison.

The SFMTA did not respond with a comment before press time.

From Department of Parking and Traffic parking control officers and Muni station agents to crossing guards, roughly 1,340 SFMTA workers are represented by SEIU 1021. Their representatives are right now amid negotiations with SFMTA over pay increases and safety changes for its members. But Trevor Adams, the union chapter president who represents SFMTA workers, said their chief concern is a safe working environment.

“Our health and safety are in jeopardy,” he said.

Adams should know. He himself has been assaulted. The San Francisco native (and George Washington High School graduate) has seen ire from his fellow San Franciscans when writing tickets — he’s been hit by a car driven by an angry driver, spat on, and pushed. Adams called the $2,000 fine for assault on parking control officers insufficient, and said his fellow workers want a health and safety committee comprised of workers and agency management to plan possible solutions to ensuring safety.

So far, SFMTA hasn’t said yes to that proposal.

“We see no justice,” Adams said.

Paul Rose, an SFMTA spokesperson, said parking control officers “do their best to keep transit and traffic moving.”

“We have come to the table in good faith and will continue to work with our union partners toward a fair deal that also takes into consideration the funding constraints we face as an agency and city,” Rose said, in a statement. “We also understand the safety concerns, which is why we have been working to provide employees with additional safety training, implemented awareness campaigns and working directly with employees to address these safety needs through our Assault Reduction Taskforce.”

But the parking control officers said those assaults continue, and can lead to long-lasting harm.

Arabi Najdawi, who has worked as a parking control officer since 1992, said he was assaulted in 2014, but the terror of it still lingers with him. He was in an Impark parking garage on Lombard Street, near Fillmore Street, when he ticketed a man whose parking meter had expired after giving him extra time to pay it.

The man became enraged, threw hot coffee in Najdawi’s face and then started to throw punches. He beat Najdawi down until he was on the cement, then stepped on Najdawi’s back as he walked to his car.

“I had him prosecuted,” he said.

But though the man ultimately served a year in jail, Najdawi said the system, from the District Attorney’s Office on downward, was geared toward not pushing for prosecution; nor were there enough deterrents to stop the assault. Raising the fine would be one way to discourage future assaults, he said.

“He did this to me,” a fairly sturdy man, Najdawi said. “Think of what people do to others.”

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