Muni service healthy again after sick-out

The commute to work Thursday morning got a little easier for thousands of Muni riders as buses, light-rail and cable cars resumed their regular routes after a three-day sick-out by transit operators.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency tweeted out the good news on Twitter at 4:59 a.m to riders:

The transit agency said about 90 percent of service was out on the streets during the morning rush-hour commute.

By comparison, Muni was operating at 54 percent on Monday and 61 percent on Tuesday. Service started improving on Wednesday with 80 percent of service available for riders.

SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose told SFBay he could not confirm that the sick-out is over, but said service is much better compared to the previous days. Rose said service is not quite all the back yet; forty-five vehicles were not in service out of 600 scheduled Thursday morning.

The sick-out by Muni drivers caused major system-wide delays, which made the transit agency abbreviate service on most Muni lines. On Monday, 700 drivers were out sick, according to the transit agency. Muni missed a total of 718 runs during the first day of the sick-out.

Operators started calling in sick on Sunday night after rejecting a proposed labor contract from the City. Leaders from Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents more than 2,000 transit operators and mechanics, said the proposed contract would cut wages and benefits.

The proposed contract does include wage increases over the next two years that would push the hourly rate of transit operators to $32 but also asks for operators to contribute to their pensions.

Despite the heated contract negotiations, union President Eric Williams said that union leaders did not authorize or participate in the three-day operator sick-out.

Transit and city officials have been trying for days to ask operators to return to work.

SMFTA officials sent out a memo to operators who participated in the sick-out saying they must have a legitimate doctor’s note in order to get paid sick leave.

Mayor Ed Lee said Tuesday in a statement that operators were punishing residents by not showing up for work:

“As public servants, we are obligated to serve the residents of this City, not punish them when you disagree with the amount of your raise, or the contributions you must pay toward your pension.”

City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed labor charges against the union Wednesday with the Public Relations Employees Board. Herrera said in the complaint that the union leadership persuaded members to vote against the proposed labor contract. He also said union leaders knew about a potential sick-out, but did nothing to stop it.

Herrera said the existing labor contract with TWU Local 250-A prohibits strikes and work stoppages such as sick-outs.

As stated in the City Charter, a neutral arbitration board will decide on the labor contract dispute on Saturday.

Muni Sick-Out By The Numbers

Missed Runs:

  • Monday: 718
  • Tuesday: 519
  • Wednesday: 266

Operators Out Sick:

  • Monday: 700
  • Tuesday: 538
  • Wednesday: 290

Source: SFMTA