No Free Rides: Finally, Inevitably: Muni Is Suing Muni

You can add Muni management to the burgeoning list of people blindsided by Muni drivers.

Earlier this month, a U.S. District Court judge certified some 2,500 drivers — every man and woman who has slipped behind the wheel of a bus, train, trolley, or cable car since July 2009 — as a class in a federal suit against Muni. And, like Muni, that suit is moving forward with extreme slowness — and may cost the city an arm and a leg.

In a strongly worded ruling, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers affirmed the drivers have "provided substantial evidence" they've been stiffed in the myriad ways they claim Muni is stiffing them. These include interludes spent performing post-driving inspections; travels from one bus or train to another when switching runs; and time expended wandering from the final bus or train run of the day to their personal vehicles.

Muni, the drivers claim, pays them based upon "a predetermined amount of driving time," yet "has a practice of designing its routes in a manner that makes it impossible for Operators to stay on schedule."

Management demurred, stating operators' experiences are varied — and, in nonlegal jargon, their own damn fault; a driver who failed to submit overtime cards due to "laziness" was prominently cited.

"The Court finds Defendant's arguments unavailing," wrote the judge.

The plaintiffs accuse Muni — and the city — of failing to adhere to the Minimum Wage Ordinance en masse, since July 16, 2009, for the class of 2,500 workers. While yes, Muni drivers are paid significantly more than minimum wage, this claim is based upon the notion that Muni failed to compensate its drivers for the aforementioned time periods. The city, incidentally, claims that, per the city's Minimum Wage Ordinance, "the City ... is not an 'employer' as that term is defined."

There's a lot of money riding on this determination. Multiply the $50 daily penalty for violating the Minimum Wage Ordinance by five years worth of days and 2,500 workers. The total: $228 million. That's a lot of cash. And a lot of leverage, if a settlement is in the offing.

Muni spokesman Paul Rose declined to comment, deferring to the City Attorney's Office — which declined to comment. So did plaintiffs' attorney Steve Tidrick. The warring parties are next scheduled to meet on Aug. 8. If Tidrick is right, by that time, the city will owe his clients roughly $10 million more.

 
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25 comments
JauseSoze
JauseSoze

I've noticed the majority of complaints about the workers are the same thing they have no control over which is the schedule. The drivers don't make the schedules. Management does. The drivers don't do the hiring in which staffing these the busses to take away the need for these drivers to do overtime in the first place. Management does. However you don't aimed at the real culprits.

How many of you who are complaining are willing to drive around inhaling car fumes, b/o and various other scents to haul passengers from the Tenderloin, Bayview, and other areas of the city 24 hrs 7 days a week 365 days a year to General hospital or anywhere else being subjected to assault and all types of abuse with no cost of living raise in 6 years?

Take in to consideration you are saying the driver who is good enough to get you to work, your kids to school, your elderly parents who are unable to drive to Dr appointments and other places all over the city so you don't have to take time off and drive yourself, is not good enough to be your neighbor, for his kids to get the same education as yours, not to be forced to commute 2 hours a day after driving 10 hours a day just to get home!

ngoron
ngoron

My brother is a Transit Operator and I must say he is a very hard working man. He tries his best to take good care of his children. They don't have the best but I applaud him for trying. If the overtime work is available should he not volunteer to work it? The point is he works for it. They don't get bonuses. They don't live in San Francisco because he says he can't  afford to live there. 

He says that they haven't had a raise in over 5 years. 

Twitter can stay and get tax breaks for investing in the city. Which also results in higher rents and property values. But no to giving your employees a raise. That is the epitome of gentrification.  

Aimee Mausisa
Aimee Mausisa

I hate to say it but maybe it is time for another big one.

Javier Leocadio Colón
Javier Leocadio Colón

Austin Cruz - Again you miss the point. You are upset with the numerous situations that have limited your ability to generate income. Your student debt seems to be a factor, your lack of a strong union to help negotiate better contracts and salary for you is also an issue. Unions don't "bully". That is propaganda fed to you through the media in an effort to make you believe what corporations want you to believe. An unorganized group of people is easy to manipulate and control. But there is strength in numbers and if you are united then your company/job must listen to your needs and the board of directors can start investing more in it's people and less in their own interests. I too went to school and earned a Masters Degree and found working in the corporate world to be slave labor and immoral. I left all that behind to start a career as a carpenter. I make a much better living now then I ever did working with a startup. You should also be less stuck on the fact that a bus driver is earning more money than you. Being a bus driver is hard and I don't want to do that work. Most likely trash men are earning more money than you as well. However you can be certain that you are probably earning more money than a teacher... It's a messy situation we are in that's for sure. But modesty will get you much further than pride. There is nothing wrong with being a bus driver and they deserve a good salary much like you do. The question still remains... What will you do to change your situation?

Austin Cruz
Austin Cruz

'Do something to change that or find a new career'?!? Well, why didn't I think of that?!? Better yet, why not join a union who can help me bully my way to better pay and benefits!! How silly I was to pay, out of my own pocket, for an education in the healthcare field and expect to get paid less than bus drivers. Maybe, by your logic, we should all be bus drivers & get paid $100k annually so we can then afford to buy a home in SF! That'll fix the issues!

Javier Leocadio Colón
Javier Leocadio Colón

Austin Cruz - It appears that your problem is with your own job. If you don't like your pay then either do something to change that or find a new career. You shouldn't be taking your frustrations out on MUNI workers. I don't even use public transportation but I live in San Francisco and realize how expensive this place is to live. You can barely support yourself in this city with $60,000 a year salary when you take into account rent, healthcare and your food expenses. So how can someone raise a family on $60,000? Obviously one parent has to stay at home and take care of the children, you certainly can't afford day care.

Austin Cruz
Austin Cruz

2010 statistics for you Javier Colon: The average base pay for a Muni operator — those who drive buses, cable cars and light-rail vehicles — is roughly $60,000, which is determined by a City Charter mandate that says they must be among the top paid in the country. And Muni’s 2,350 operators are almost guaranteed a bevy of overtime pay. In calendar year 2009, 622 Muni operators raked in more than $80,000 in total pay, including 82 who brought home more than $100,000. More than 400 operators were paid overtime in excess of $20,000. One operator earned as much as $78,722 in overtime and brought home a total of $146,498 in pay last year. Seventeen operators earned more than $51,000 in overtime, contributing to more than $100,000 in take-home pay for the year, according to data obtained from the city controller. In addition to wages, The City pays employees’ pension contribution, which is 7.5 percent of wages. This fiscal year, it will cost $8.8 million, according to the City Controller’s Office. In fiscal year 2008-09, the transit agency spent $41.3 million on operators’ total fringe benefits, including retirement, Social Security, health and dental. *Now please tell me again why I should empathize with these people? I'm in the healthcare field and don't get paid as well as these people...nor are my benefits as good as what they are 'entitled' to.*

Sous Kitchen
Sous Kitchen

Javier Leocadio Colón you're right! Everyone deserves a good salary to afford living here. CA is the most expensive state in the USA!

Javier Leocadio Colón
Javier Leocadio Colón

Benoit Jeanne it's not the fault of the MUNI workers that they are late and the schedule is messed up. Do you realize how many odd things happen in this city? From homeless people exposing themselves to crazy people harassing the drivers... all of this adds up in a day and throws the schedule off. Your tardiness is not an excuse to pay people less money. MUNI doesn't't work for tips like a waitress.

Naomi Flores
Naomi Flores

I stand united with the bus driver!!!! Remember, these r the same people who bring u to work!!!! People need to read about Labor History!!!! Unions set industry standards!!!!!!

Benoit Jeanne
Benoit Jeanne

Sorry Javier .;but you seem to forget or not seeing that the muni is delivering a terrible service..;you cannot count on the muni to be in time at work if you relay only on them..!So .;a raise ..;maybe.;but when the job will be done right..;like any other worker!

Javier Leocadio Colón
Javier Leocadio Colón

Tammy Lively - the reason why owning a house in this city is unreachable is a direct result of people like you believing that it's an unachievable goal. These MUNI/BART pay raises don't stop there... it will open up the doors to more pay raises across a wide range of jobs. Maybe we can even convince the government to force Walmart to pay their employees more. We need to renew our faith in unions. I see the pay rates decreasing, the rent increasing and desperate Millennials offering to work for free just to be in a cool office. It's nonsense. Workers United 60 years ago and forced Corporate America to provide healthcare, an 8 hr work day and provide a safe working environment. It was unions that made working a pleasurable environment in this country. They aren't the enemy.

Gregorio Lopez
Gregorio Lopez

I hope the workers get paid. All the shit they have to deal with they deserve it. Just like the bart workers.

Jay El
Jay El

Muni management is a joke.

Tammy Lively
Tammy Lively

Myself & my Husband have never worked a job with ping pong tables. And he'd gladly drive a MUNI or BART train for their current pay & benefit package. As far as buying a house in the City that's not an option & never will be.

Javier Leocadio Colón
Javier Leocadio Colón

The majority of you people are hypocritical. On one hand you all admit that people are not earning enough, that rental prices are too high in this city and the minimum wage should be raised... then you all seem to complain about MUNI and BART employees fighting for higher wages. You can't afford to purchase a house in this city unless you earn over $100,000. You realize that there is a parking problem in the city and pollution problem in the world... So you choose a greener way to commute to work... but then you don't want to pay the people responsible for getting you to work. When will these contradictory views end? MUNI & BART employees should earn more. They should be able to afford a house in this city. AND just because you went to school and studied computer science or business... doesn't mean that you should automatically earn more money than the people that drive you to work everyday. Americans have some twisted values. If you want to earn more money and cannot stand that a bus driver or train conductor is earning more than you do at your startup company... then maybe you should consider leaving your job and driving a bus or train. It certainly isn't an easy job and you won't have ping pong tables, shuffle board or an endless supply of snacks to keep you entertained while you're supposedly working.

JauseSoze
JauseSoze

So I get this right you're complaining that these operators EARN such salaries by working long hours of overtime, in which they sacrifice time away from their families in order to make a better way? What makes what you do so different or better? From what you just posted seems like not even a quarter of the drivers are even working the overtime and those who are will be subjected to all types of abuse I'm sure you are unwilling to get off of your high horse to deal with.

So just to recap and be clear you feel it's ok for these drivers to get you to and from your destination, serve your needs but not to earn a decent wage and afford to live amongst you? The cost of living continues to go up but their salaries have been the same the past 6 years and you complain that they do overtime in order to compensate?

jdees
jdees

tell him to apply then.  bart is tougher to get into, but muni is constantly hiring.  for the last several years they have lost many more drivers than they have been able to train/retain

 
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