The architects of Prop. G said they wanted to give Muni management the tools to run a more efficient system to improve service. The initiative landed on the ballot after operators twice rebuffed their union leaders and voted down cost-saving concessions requested by city officials to help balance the budget.
Union spokesman Jamie Horwitz said the feeling of being scapegoated for Muni's problems runs deep among the rank and file. He said had voters been presented with a referendum on Muni management, "They would have voted to throw the bums out."
No matter what the arbitrator decides, Horwitz expects the dispute ultimately to be resolved in court. The union filed suit in March to stop implementation of Prop. G, and it has asked federal labor and transportation officials to find a provision requiring the arbitrator to consider the effect of the proposed agreement on transit service in violation of transit funding laws.
But it may first get tested in the court of public opinion in a city with a long history of labor support.
Serving the publicMayor Ed Lee said the operators who voted against the tentative agreement made the wrong choice. He is now looking at the arbitration process as the built-in "safety valve" to settle the disagreement.
The mayor said he didn't want to dismiss the concerns of operators who feel underappreciated, but he argued they have to understand their role as city employees who provide an important service.
"They need to know that their bosses are the residents of San Francisco. They are my bosses, and as a public servant, I understand that," Lee said Thursday. "I will be attending the funeral today for two San Francisco firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of serving the public. That is our job, to serve the public."
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