The labor union representing Muni operators is asking the federal government to withhold billions in funding for the Central Subway and other projects if the Municipal Transportation Agency follows the dictates of Proposition G in bargaining a new contract.
Attorneys for Transport Workers Union Local 250A filed a letter with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis asking that the Department of Labor refuse to certify the Municipal Transportation Agency as being in compliance with a federal law that protects collective bargaining rights for unions at transit agencies receiving federal funds.
The union contends that Proposition G, which passed in November with 65 percent of the vote, violates that provision of the Federal Transit Act by giving the transit agency's management the right to unilaterally determine contract terms. Should negotiations, now under way, reach an impasse, as expected, an independent arbitrator would determine the final contract.
But under Prop. G, the union's letter says, the arbitrator cannot rule against Muni management's proposals unless the union can prove that its interests outweigh "the public interest in efficient and reliable transit." That, says union attorney Peter Saltzman, is an impossible task - and therefore illegal.
"It's tails we win, heads you still lose," said Rafael Cabrera, president of the operators' union.
Rich Peterson, a spokesman for the agency, said the city attorney is reviewing the union's filing but in the meantime, "the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency remains engaged with union leaders at the bargaining table to reach a fair and sustainable labor contract."
Muni is due to receive about $4.5 billion in federal funds over the next five years, union officials say. Their letter specifically mentions funding for Central Subway construction, Clipper card implementation and cable car repairs.
The union has already challenged Prop. G in state court, filing a lawsuit in March that is still pending.
- Michael Cabanatuan
Not-So-Little Boxes: AT&T will be back before the Board of Supervisors today, asking for permission to place up to 726 utility boxes on city sidewalks without putting the project through a lengthy and costly environmental review process.
The Planning Department already gave the OK, but project opponents appealed that decision to the supervisors. The supervisors delayed consideration once, after a mind-numbingly long hearing last month that drew dozens of people to testify for and against whether a full-blown environmental analysis is warranted.
Today's vote is expected to be close.
AT&T said the utility boxes are needed to house equipment for its digital TV, phone and high-speed Internet services, which would give consumers an alternative to similar services offered by Comcast.
Opponents said AT&T can do that without cluttering the public sidewalks. Instead, they say the communications giant should rent space from private property owners. AT&T representatives said that placing equipment on private property could pose access problems.
The metal cabinets measure 4 feet tall, 4 feet wide and 2 feet deep.
"We are not going to sell out public space for private gain," said Milo Hanke, past president of San Francisco Beautiful, one of the groups behind the appeal.
AT&T spokesman Lane Kasselman, said that an environmental review could take two to three years to complete and delay "bringing choice and competition to San Francisco."
Even if the board gives the go-ahead, Kasselman noted that the proposed locations of each box would be subject to public review and Department of Public Works approval.
- Rachel Gordon
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