A letter from the wife of a Muni operator

MUNI at night
Photo by Flickr user kodama

We received this letter from Jenella, who wanted to tell a story from the perspective of a Muni driver’s spouse.

As a spouse of a Muni driver, I understand there is a lot of hate towards Muni drivers. So I thought I’d tell a story about the other side since we always hear about the passengers and their experiences. How about a story about a Muni driver’s experiences?

Every work day, my husband irons and presses his uniform. I shake my head in disbelief. He’s only a bus driver. Being a second generation born and raised in San Francisco transit operator, he takes pride in moving commuters through his great city.

He leaves the house 45 minutes before his relief point just to make sure he’s on time. The nerve! On time….Ha! What a joke. With the new cut backs on a few Muni lines, management also cut back on end of the line times. The only break a Muni driver gets is at the terminal when he heads back to do the run again. So if the driver gets caught up in traffic, or has unruly passengers or the bus breaks down, that can eat up a five minute break easily. This is a common occurrence.

Take for example last night, Sunday night, hubby went seven hours without a break. God forbid he stopped to pee! Besides with his “fat” checks he doesn’t deserve a break, right? Maybe if a driver was allowed a break between a nine-hour shift, there may be less accidents.

One time, a disabled woman who couldn’t climb the stairs needed a ride. So he lowered the lift for her. No problem, except her hip popped out and she had to lay down on the ground and wiggle it back into place. This happened three times while she attempted to board. My heart goes out to her, but the rest of the riders and soon-to-be riders didn’t appreciate the tardiness, and rightly so! Hubby should take crap from passengers for the rest of the evening.

Another time, a man kicked in his door and busted the glass just because he wanted a free ride. Apparently he wants one everyday and that day he wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

There was another time when some young punks threaten my hubby with a gun to let them on the bus for free. Unfortunately, the cops got to them before anything happened. Otherwise retribution on a Muni worker might have become a city holiday for voters and riders! Take that you Muni driver: Pop! Pop! Pop!

Then there was the driver who got maced and the drivers who get called racial indecencies all the time. I’m sure the drivers had it coming! Jerk offs! Making the public pay $2 for a ride and then having the nerve to be late! Did you know they get warnings and written up for being EARLY?

And when the old flyers break down! It’s always the drivers fault. After all voters gave Muni money to buy new ones….. so where are they? Newsom and the city needed to borrow some money but never paid it back. This too is also Muni’s fault. They shouldn’t trust those politicians; they should know better.

There’s the homeless who harass passengers and the man with turrets yelling obscenities at the top of his lungs or the woman who’s so drunk she’s causing the other passengers distress or the drunken man who pukes on the bus or argues to stay on the bus but can’t stop calling the driver names. Then there’s the people who cut him off in traffic, motorcycles and bicyclists to watch out for and pedestrians who step off the sidewalk in front of a moving bus. Seriously, who wants to be stuck behind a Muni bus? Also, if I’m on foot and feel like crossing the street, I’m gonna do it no matter what, because as a pedestrian, I have the right away! Stupid Muni drivers and their 31,500 pound bus!

Most nights my hubby comes home and his head hurts so bad from constantly driving defensively, the stress of dealing with the public on a daily basis, he’s in no mood to listen to me complain about preschool costs. I’m not making excuses for him, he deserves ever bit of the public’s crap! He loves his job! But his ass will be out on the street if Newsom cuts his pay or lays him off. We already can’t afford Muni health insurance for our family of three. Seriously $60,000 (before taxes) a year for a family of three to survive in San Francisco should be enough, right? Our rent takes up 2/3 of his paycheck. My hubby had the nerve to vote ”No” last week and it’s really because he’s just a greedy bastard! The cost of living increase pay has already been deferred for three years…..and Muni workers have the highest cost for health insurance than any other city employee. Good thing we can’t afford the city health plan, as I see it we are saving them $900 a month by being uninsured

Joe public, I know you’re pissed because you have to ride the dirty old city bus and pay $2 to do so. But before you start taking it out on a Muni operator, remember Muni drivers are people too. They do the best they can with YOUR safety in mind. Most people wouldn’t last a day driving for Muni. I really wish people would stop blaming the driver for everything! I saw one person make a comment about “back in the day” … Polite, professional, friendly drivers etc…The public “back in the day” were also different. Polite, professional, and friendly. If you get treated like crap every day you’re gonna start having a crappy attitude.

It’s gonna really suck when more lines get cut and more drivers are laid off. The blue collar working class will soon be non existent in this city and when Newsom calls Muni drivers greedy and says that they get “fat” salaries, I think he should try to live in the city with his two dependents on $60,000 a year.


  • Ben

    I would hope that most people understand that there are a lot of drivers who work hard, but there are also some who are lazy and rude. Not all anger that people have is directed towards every driver. If you actually read through a lot of stories and comments on this site, you will see that a lot of anger is directed towards the city and MUNI brass, not just your working class hubby.

    As far as taking cuts, a lot of people from all walks of life are financially hurting right now and your hubby shouldn’t be immune just because he has a union representing him. I am sure there are thousands of people who would learn to be MUNI operators if the current drivers aren’t willing to make any concessions.

    Also, there are tons people making it in this city who make a lot less than 60k/year, myself included.

    Maybe you could:

    Find a cheaper place. (Rent should, ideally, not be more than 35% of what you bring in)

    At the very least, get a cheap, high deductible emergency insurance plan for your family.

    or GET A JOB so your husband doesn’t have to support you AND your child!

  • We need more letters like this one on here, it’s interesting to hear things from the drivers’ perspectives.

  • Rob

    There is a lot of misdirected rage at muni employees. Your husband sounds like an ideal employee and I hope that the mta works to insure that the hardest workers remain employed as we enter a new round of cuts. Driving a bus is dangerous and difficult, it requires a very intelligent and capable staff.

    Thank you for your story and try not to take the misdirected anger too personally. Just as your husband is not the problem, much of the unwarranted complaints will offer no solution.

    I hope the moderators will removethat second comment. It is neither constructive nor appropriate in this site.

    Tell your husband thank you for me!!!! 🙂

  • AlexJB

    I LOVE IT! More driver stories!

    I’ve had MUNI drivers that were really fun and sweet people, and I think it would be awesome if this blog became a forum where *everyone* who takes part in our mass transit adventure could sound off 🙂

    How about some solutions ‘from the inside’ ?

    • I’m with you, Alex. I too would love to hear more stories from operators and people who work for transit in SF. We’re workin’ on it…:)

  • Tracy

    Thank you for sharing that! It’s good to read things from another perspective. It’s true that a lot of anger is directed at the drivers because they are the ones we see every day. Kind of like shooting the messenger. You’re right, it’s not fair and I’ll think twice next time I feel my anger rising.

  • Alex

    Absolutely none of that mitigates the bad drivers.

    You want to talk about assault? How about trying to board an LRV, only to have the driver who’s overridden the door interlock start moving the train without checking the mirrors or closing the doors? I’ve had that happen to me a couple of times, and watched it happen to other people. Remember that guy that got turned into hamburger meat on Judah a few years ago?

    Or how about another assault? I was on the L a few weeks ago as we were coming up on 26th Ave. The driver slowed down and rolled right through the stop sign. He was completely oblivious to the passengers who had approached the train. How difficult would it have been for someone to trip and get caught under the train? How difficult would it have been to get out of the way had there been someone in the intersection?

    Or how about being late? How about being on a 28, trying to get home, when the driver pulls up to the Starbucks on Irving and just gets out without warning. Maybe he needed a bio break, it’s not like there are bathrooms at either end of the line…

    Dirty vehicles? Headaches? Try stepping on to a nearly empty outbound train (the only other passenger is on the other end) at Embarcadero only to realize that the whole vehicle reeks of cigarette smoke. While the driver can open his or her window, the passengers can’t. While a passenger may have lit up, how many passengers were on the train when it was stopped in the MMT for a few minutes?

    The difficulties picking up a disabled passenger? Try watching the driver and his supervisor argue with a wheelchair bound man. They were ordering him to not board the train because it was too crowded (nevermind the signage indicating that passengers are obligated to give up the first few seats).

    Should I even start in on my tale of the Owl bus driver who was tossing sunflower seeds everywhere? How about the one that was running all the stop signs until 19th Ave.

    As for your complaints with the contract:

    – The MTA pays $225 per month for health insurance. Most private employers won’t much more than that. The city will pay that much for health insurance for some period of time after he gets laid off (if he gets laid off). I couldn’t think of a single private company that does that.

    – The pension. Like it or loathe it, pensions are a significant cost for the city. If you and your husband would rather have the money in salary — take it up with the union. Pensions are pretty much non-existent in the private sector now. If he’s been a full-time driver for more than five years, he’s either making more than $60,000 or has gotten plenty of opportunities to do so (expert bonus, night overtime, instructor premium, attendance bonus, personal and systemwide safe driving bonuses, customer service bonuses).

    – The TWU voted to defer their cost of living adjustment previously, fine, great. Guess what? Money didn’t magically appear in the budget this year. State employees are still taking furloughs, private employees are taking wage cuts, riders are seeing significant fare increases. Everyone needs to do their part, including drivers.

    – Your husband leaves for work 45 minutes before his shift, kudos for budgeting your time… but why on earth should transportation within this city be so inefficient that it takes him 45 minutes to get to work? Maybe it’s time to get a car, or more to a more transit friendly place like Oakland or Marin.

    • Ben


    • Good point about some drivers are just ruining the reputation of the good ones.

      Just last Saturday night, I was riding the 38-Geary inbound and the bus skipped passengers from 33rd Avenue to 25th Avenue. Even the driver hit the brake approaching 30th Avenue, then slammed the gas pedal and drove off.

      There was no bus behind it to pick-up passengers.

  • JC

    Agreed. MUNI operators are people too. On Saturday night, I was coming back from the movies (“Ghost Writer” – two thumbs up) and riding the 1 from the Embarcadero Center. This was fairly late but probably not too much after the New Year’s parade had broken up. So, it was a pretty crowded bus and at Sacramento & Grant, a woman got on who sounded like she may have had a bit to drink. And she starts, in a raised voice, complaining about how she had waited for hours for the bus and that she paid taxes, etc… (I wondered, “maybe that’s because the 1 was diverted off of Sacramento while the parade was on” but kept my yapper shut). And, surprisingly to me, another woman who had already been on the bus told the woman in a calm but firm voice that she understood but that it wasn’t the operator’s fault and that she should basically STFU. Which she didn’t but at least she gave a grudging “I know, I know but it’s just too long” sort of response. All of this was pretty cool to see. We’re hopefully going to see more of it.

    But, as someone (I think from MD) tweeted last week, Friday may have marked a pretty dark day for MUNI until the economy turns around. It’s probably going to be a couple of tense years with some crowded buses. I kind of look at it like we’re all trapped in this together so we may as well try to be courteous. Which means be nice to your operators. And vice versa.

    What do I mean by vice versa? A particular pet peeve of mine over the past few years was riding my typical route home after a late night at work and having the operator cut it short because he/she was heading back to the depot. Cutting the route short (and turning around) would mean that I would be left off 4 blocks before the terminal and the driver would be saved the 5-10 mins involved with having to disconnect before circumventing a bus already at the terminal and driving an extra 8-10 blocks. I’m pretty sure that this was and is against MUNI policy but the driver would usually shrug and say that there was another bus a couple minutes behind me if I didn’t want to walk the 4-5 blocks home. Well, chances are that for the next few years, there isn’t going to be a bus a couple of minutes behind any longer. So to speak.

  • AnthonyV

    I feel for those whom have become accustom to a certain lifestyle, and now are faced with having to do with much less, but the ugly truth is that outside the little bubble of TWU, everyone is taking a hit. I have no children, but I have a dog, and if I worry as much as I do about providing for that dog, then I can only imagine the stress a parent goes through wanting to provide the best for their children, but do these Muni operators have any idea what the rest of America is going through right now!?!

    I am very thankful for the great drivers out there, and yes I have actually called 311 before just to leave a compliment on how nice a driver was. Doing the job of a transit operator in a city is a job I could never do, and why I do not apply for those types of jobs. It takes special people just like this lady’s husband to do the job, I hope whomever reads this gets what I just said, “a job I could never do”,and,”I do not apply for those types of jobs”. I am sure I am being ridiculous when I ask, can Muni employees be rotated out of driver positions? It just seems that if the job has become impossible for you to do safely, and with some sense of human kindness, then you should no longer do that job, correct?

    And is it not arrogant for the Muni operators to think that somehow their job is more stressful, or difficult then so many other people having to get by on so much less? Please, someone understand that the number of people effected negatively by fare hikes, service cuts, and bad attitudes, out number the muni operators.

    • Nicole

      I agree with you completely. Muni drivers get so much grief every day that I think it’s important to call out the good deeds. I always call 311 to let MUNI know about the drivers who are proactive about letting riders know about delays, for example. MUNI (and drivers) should get positive reinforcement, too. God knows, they get enough negative reinforcement.

      But we’re in a recession. We all have sob stories. And we all have to make concessions. Over the past year, my company downgraded our promised medical/dental/vision coverage to a catastrophic-only medical plan. If I get sick, I get to look forward to paying a $2000 deductible, then fighting with my insurance company to get anything above that covered. And I pay half the premiums.

      Cost-of-living increase? I haven’t gotten a raise in three years, either. It’s the economy. It’s hard on everyone. It’s particularly hard on the people who are unemployed or underemployed and rely on public transportation, which is facing its second round of fare increases and reductions in service in two years.

      Of course drivers get written up for being early on a route. The goal of public transportation is to be on time. No, that’s not easy, especially in SF. (We all have seen the pedestrians running into traffic, completely ignoring their own safety, right in front of a bus that has to screech to a halt.) Yes, we all could and should be doing more, as pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers, to help MUNI stay on time. But on-time is the goal of any schedule-based business. Early doesn’t help just as late doesn’t help.

      But what other job gives the sick benefits that MUNI drivers have? At most companies, you have to call in sick–as in, you have to be accountable to your supervisor–and you can’t take one day a week off. MUNI drivers also get overtime, even if they work fewer than 40 hours in a week, and don’t have to contribute to their own retirement plan (I contribute 100% to mine–my employer stopped the 2% match).

      I totally feel for the drivers. I think they have a really tough job, and they do not get the appreciation they deserve. But that sick time policy has always infuriated me. When I read that there have been days when 22% of the MUNI workforce doesn’t bother showing up to work, it makes me even more mad. Add on top the refusal to accept concessions, when there are so many people out of work and working people who have had the equivalent (and worse) forced on them, and you’ve lost my sympathy for your cause. Yes, I support the drivers. But that employment contract is utter bullshit.

      • Alex

        BTW, being early is a HUGE no no for any public transportation driver. Think about it for a second. If a rider is at the stop when the vehicle is due:

        – If the vehicle is late, the rider will still be able to board the vehicle.
        – If the vehicle is early, the rider has missed the vehicle and will have to wait for the net one.

        Being early will generally have a worse impact on the rider than being late. This is more significant on lines that have less frequent service. If your bus only runs twice an hour and it’s two minutes early… you’re going to have to wait another 30 minutes. If it’s five minutes late, you’re only waiting five minutes.

  • loren

    i feel for the MUNI operators, especially right now when it seems like the general public is getting less and less cordial all the time. Hell, I witnessed a yelling match between two idiots on the N just the other day and the beginnings of a fist-fight the last time i was on the 22. Operators like the one described above are the ones that give me hope for muni, and i appreciate them so much.

    however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t irresponsible and genuinely mean operators out there; ones who treat well-mannered passengers like crap and/or don’t give a shit about their safety. i’ve experienced many first-hand. and i too have had my fare share of 8 hour work days without a real break, being hassled by drunk/crazy customers… but that doesn’t mean i treat everyone like crap, or let my work suffer drastically. nor should they.

  • So long as people buy in to the whole “kicking drivers around will solve all of Muni’s problems” line that Supervisor Sean Elsbernd (who supported the looting of Muni with work orders) and others push, nothing will get accomplished. It’s divide and conquer.

    Yes, reform the work rules so good drivers are rewarded and bad ones, or ones that don’t bother to work, get shown the door. But to think that is all we need to do to fix Muni is stupid jingoistic bullshit.

  • Marc Map

    It’s good that this woman is speaking from her experience–I will speak from mine. For every driver who is polite and helpful, there is one who is rude and angry. The vast majority are simply indifferent and unhelpful.

    And here’s a fact: Muni drivers have more job security and make more money than most of their passengers. They make more money and have more security than I do.

    And we all have hard jobs; my wife could write something similar. Our jobs are made much harder when we don’t whether or not we’ll make it to work on time, or when every commute is like running a gauntlet.

    I’m a San Francisco progressive, and I have no sympathy for the Muni drivers. None. They used up my sympathy. I also have very little sympathy for Muni’s management–labor and management, you BOTH suck. Find a way to improve service, or take a financial hit.

    But no matter, STOP WHINING. Times are tough all over, for me, for you, for everyone.

  • Meghan

    Coming from someone who makes less than 25k per year and manages to live just fine: 60k is a lot of money. Learn how to budget and make smarter decisions with your money.

    And maybe you should get a job, too, instead of just relying on your hubby to support the family.

    • I think raising a family with three children on 60K is not easy in San Francisco. And with child care costs I think it could be understandable if some moms decide to stay at home. But at any rate, Jenella didn’t specify whether she also has a job.

      • Nicole

        I totally agree. If they have 3 pre-school age children, that $60k would get almost entirely eaten up by childcare costs. Not to mention medical bills, which are not for nothing with kids. Not to mention rent on a 2-BR place (the smallest size you could have with 3 kids and not go insane) in a semi-safe neighborhood.

        Still, despite my lengthy comment about the MUNI contract, I am really glad that Jenella spoke up and gave her side, and I second the request for more MUNI voices here. It must be so hard to be a MUNI driver, but it’s also got to be hard to be a spouse and hear about people saying terrible things to the person you love all day long.

        I appreciate the work Jenella’s husband and his colleagues do. I just really, really, really don’t want to see another rate hike.

        • Ben

          “If they have 3 pre-school age children”

          This is not in the article. you made it up.

          “Not to mention rent on a 2-BR place (the smallest size you could have with 3 kids and not go insane) in a semi-safe neighborhood”

          You can rent a decent 2 BR in the Sunset for $1700/mo, which comes to 1/3 of his yearly salary.

      • Ben

        The article states that they have a family of 3 and the driver supports 2 dependents.

        • You’re right. I should have said a family of three people, not three kids.

        • jenella

          Just to make sure it’s clear. Hubby supports our son and myself on his check.
          My full time job consists of raising our son. I suppose I could get a “paying” job just to
          cover daycare cost which run from $1200- $1800 a month in the city. However,
          this isn’t why we had a child so that others could raise him for us.

          I mainly wrote the letter just so others could see another side. I do fear for my husbands safety out there. Times are tough for everyone, and there is so much hatred and
          rage towards one another these days. We are all in this together. Reform Muni in all departments is needed. Bad Operators make life hard on the ones who do do a good job.

          That being said, thanks for all who read my letter and the positive feedback.

        • Alex


          Thank you for being willing to engage the riders. It’s a discussion that needs to and ought to happen. However:

          – Why were your union boss, and some of your drivers out on the steps of city hall agitating against the riders? They were arguing in favor of charging for each transfer. To me, and I suspect to a number of riders, this demonstrates a key lack of understanding of how the MUNI system works. One of the TWU members was also decrying that there was planning (a la the TEP) because “we know how many people we push/pull every day, we don’t need anyone to tell us that.” To me this demonstrates a key unwillingness to consider the system as a whole, or at least an unwillingness to see how the system works for others.

          – When you bemoan things like penalties for showing up at a stop early, that too demonstrates a key lack of understanding of how the system works for the riders. I don’t know if that’s merely something that seems unintuitive to you, or if that’s a point of contention for your husband.

          If you, your husband, the drivers, the machinsts, the janitors, the station agents, their families, and so-on would actually engage the riding public, the transit planners, hell… even the management… perhaps there would be less rage. But as long as the face of the driver’s union is out in public essentially denouncing the riders, as long as there is no actual dialogue, no informed discourse, expect this acrimonious relationship to continue unchanged.

  • Ben

    “If they have 3 pre-school age children”

    This is not in the article. you made it up.

    “Not to mention rent on a 2-BR place (the smallest size you could have with 3 kids and not go insane) in a semi-safe neighborhood”

    You can rent a decent 2 BR in the Sunset for $1700/mo, which comes to 1/3 of his yearly salary.

    • Nicole

      My mistake. Thanks for the correction.

    • A decent 2 BR apt. in the Sunset for $1700/mo.? Are you insane? One can rent a whole house in the burbs for that and have room to breath

      • Ben

        “In the burbs” says it all.

        • George

          you have something against the ‘Burbs, my friend? Being able to sneeze without your neighbor hearing it? Being able to park within walking distance of your house? Being away from SanFran politics? Wow, I never have to worry about that lunatic daly, though we do have our own breed of lunatic out here. The City is a wonderful place, full of cultural opportunities, once you step over the bodies strewn all over the sidewalk, and avoid the ever present Walgreen’s panhandler ( it IS a law in the City, right? All Walgreen’s and BART station entrances MUST have a panhandler present.) The City is all yours, sir

        • Ben

          My comment was in response to the original post, which was talking about SF rent.

          I wish you the best in the burbs. Sounds lovely.

  • Maureen

    I really appreciate this letter. I too would like to read more letters from the driver’s point of view. So many of them seem miserable and I’d like to have more information as to why. Doesn’t change my opinion that not showing up for work and still allowed to keep your job is acceptable per the Union.

    I’ve dealt with so many rude drivers but there are some gems out there too. I’ll call 311 to sing their praises. Thanks for that idea.

  • Marc Map

    I’ve had some time to think and to read and see more since I posted my comment above. I think Alex’s reply to Jenella hits on a lot of key points: the union’s (and apparently its membership’s) inability to empathize with the community and see the bigger picture, to show solidarity with the riders, demonstrated through its actions as well as its rhetoric.

    What if the union had opted to show some leadership for the whole community, making small sacrifices in an effort to preserve quality of service (even if just symbolic) and launching an organizing effort to build solidarity with people being hit hardest by the cuts? What if the union leadership had decided to articulate a vision of San Francisco has a interdependent community? What if the union announced a special effort (called, say, “We’re all in this together”) to train operators to deal in a friendlier and more effective way with more crowded buses? And what if the quality of interactions between operators and riders actually did improve? Just a smile can make a difference, even (especially?) if the face of hostility. Imagine how powerful it would be in the union set up formal efforts to listen (in a non-defensive way) to the public, both online and offline–and then came up with a proactive plan to respond? Imagine the good will this might have created.

    Instead, here’s what the public has heard from the operators: whine, whine, whine, me, me, me, not our fault, blame someone else. No one is impressed. If I were in the union, I’d want new leadership.

    • When you say “react in a non-defensive” way to the riders, you’re really saying that Muni drivers should just sit and take whatever crap comes out of the mouths of passengers and not respond. Fact is, drivers and passengers are NOT “all in this together”, because you really want to think the drivers are responsible for what ails Muni. Drivers work very hard to get you around town as safely as possible ( the few glaring exceptions to that rule notwithstanding). And drivers bear the brunt of rider dissatisfaction, because you don’t dare go down to One Van Ness and try to take on Mr. Ford, or City hall to take on Newsome. Last time around, drivers sacrificed three furlough days a year, for three years, to do their part. Why is no one suggesting that now? Because the public believes that drivers are simply overpaid–code for “how come all those immigrant and minority workers make such good money?” There aren’t many people who can perform the tasks of a Muni driver and remain sane, so riders really ought to give ’em a break.

      • Alex

        Sorry George, but that’s simply not true. By virtue of being part of the system (as a rider, driver, supervisor, pop cop, whatever), you’re part of the problem and ought to be part of the solution.

        Point by point:

        – The driver’s union was calling for the following items at the march: charging for each transfer, eliminating any sort of planning position (so you’ll take the blame for the mess of routes we have now? For the poor placement of turnbacks and overhead wire?), and eliminating telecom spending (you guys don’t want radios?). These are items that directly effect the service provided. The first is a distinctly anti-rider proposition, the rest are an attack on the quality of service.

        – The MTA is loathe to provide more efficient express service because it costs them too much. Lack of express service and tiered passes for such service hurt the riders. Why is the TWU not working with the MTA to determine how they can ensure that more express service is provided (ensuring better service to riders and more dues paying TWU members)?

        – Riders (despite being overwhelmed by the TWU) did go protest in front of 1 S Van Ness. If you’ve watched or attended any of the town hall meetings or MTA board meetings, you’d see a lot of anger directed at Mr. Ford & Mr. Newsom.

        – Drivers agreed to three furlough days a year, yes. But income has not increased dramatically this year.

        And, for the hell of it, here’s another one that’s stuck in my craw. Premium pay for night work. Sure, the pop cops get the overtime for work after 6pm too. But the pop cops also have a flextime setup so that a pop cop working after 6 may very well be getting straight pay. Perhaps one of the reasons that the TWU sees the brunt of the negative publicity is not merely because their members are visible, but because the TWU is less willing to work with the rest of us.

        Without the riders you’d have no need for public transit, and thus no need for public transit jobs. Without the mechanics you’d have no vehicles to drive. Without the drivers there’d be no vehicles in service. We *are* all in this together, and shame on you for trying to create a false dichotomy of us versus them.

        • Income has not decreased dramatically? You mean the drivers haven’t agreed to cut their wages and benefits? You know, those are the results of hard won labor negotiations, the very reason unions exist, or once did. San Francisco used to be a labor town. But when the suits found out that, gasp, blue collar workers actually made more money than the white collar college grads the tide turned. All of a sudden it became a case where workwers should give back, because…of jealousy. Muni drivers have supported reform many times over the years. We even endorsed Prop E. We agreed to furloughs, which DID reduce our incomes dramatically. We asked many times for reform of the system in order to better serve the public. (BTW, I am no longer one of them, having decided few years ago to remove myself from the political nonsense that is San Francisco. But my sympathies still lie with my former co-workers.) Driving for Muni is one tough job, for which compensation should be excellent. But the media and politicians constantly made drivers the enemy, rather than the politicians who couldn’t resist putting their stamp on the system. Oh, another thing…premium pay for night work is for the newer worker, mostly, who gives up some semblance of a normal family life to work nights and weekends. This was something negotiated by unions in all kinds of jobs, my friend. It is not exclusive to Muni drivers. So, if you are against this kind of compensation, you should think about giving up some of your own perks ’cause, even though you may not be in a union, you wouldn’t have them at all if unions didn’t exist. The enemy isn’t the driver, my friend. Or the union. Muni and the politicians promise way more than is possible for the system to deliver and now it’s cathcing up to everyone and biting everyone in the butt.

        • Alex

          Fifteen thousand city workers just got forced take a reduction of over 6% in hours worked. That’s 15,000 workers, and that’s a cut of a wee bit more than three days a year… although less than the once monthly furloughs that many state workers have endured. So, yes, it’s entirely reasonable to expect that the drivers should offer up *something* other than the tired line of “eliminate Nat Ford’s position” (really, $300,000 out of a few hundred million dollars? that’s the fix?)

          And, yes, night premium is not unique to drivers. But take a look at the 9132s. They have a flextime agreement, not every night shift will be paid a premium. The pop cops are a part of the system, and that’s yet another example where the rest of the system is working towards a common goal, but the drivers simply are not.

          Or how about not allowing part timers to fill in for absent full-time workers? For a group that’s publicly bemoaning the pains of working overtime, they’re sure rallying around rules that damn near guarantee it.

          Or how about that pro-rider support? When the TWU (or whatver union represents the drivers in the East Bay) calls for your head, are you going to support them? Because the TWU folks sure are calling for an elimination of all supervisors and management.

          The drivers make themselves the enemy. When they co-opt a demonstration designed to rally the riders and start spewing anti-rider rhetoric, they’re making themselves the enemy. When the head of the TWU negotiates in bad faith (publicly supporting the agreement, not taking it to the union, and then badmouthing the people he was supposedly negotiating with), that’s making the TWU the enemy.

          What we’ve got here with the MTA budget is a classic tragedy of the commons. Act like it.

      • Marc Map

        George, your response puts the problem in a nutshell. It’s all there: the antagonism towards the community Muni is supposed to be serving, the sense of victimhood, the inability to see the big picture. Newsome and the Muni management are the main ones to blame, yes, and in public meetings I’ve seen them get most of the heat–but the union is now perceived as part of the problem, just another obstacle to be overcome on the way to a reliable transit system–one that mainly serves immigrants and minorities, by the way.

        • The union is the obstacle to an improved system. Antagonism toward the community? Are you kidding? Muni drivers have a large target on their backs. Everyone gets pissed at the service and somehow it’s the fault of the drivers and their union. The Chron trots out the Ugly Muni Driver story periodically and here comes more abuse. The politicians trot out the “lax work rules” scenario and the drivers get blamed for poor service due to equipment failures and traffic conditions and the moon being full. The drivers have willingly taken furloughs to help out, but then the stories about “massive, uncontrolled overtime” get written and suddenly the cycle begins again. I can’t tell you how many times I drove for 8 to 10 hours straight without having more than 6 minutes to even take a leak. let alone eat something. Then I’d get barked at by someone who had to wait a few minutes longer for the bus. Awww. Poor you. Then some clown would get on who wouldn’t pay or wanted to argue about how MUCH to pay, or want a “courtesy ride”. Or I’d be trying to give someone directions and some clown wouldn’t let me answer because his question was more important. Point is, drivers are not the enemy. drivers want to get throught the day and get out and provide good service. We knew it’s never be great, because great isn’t in the SF vocabulary. Bad equipment, poor scheduling, inadequate running time and inadequate breaks,awful traffic conditions. Kidney problems from not being able to take care of business. Stress from the everyday environment. So, hell yes we wanted good compensation. And we were not going to apologize for that. You want to pay $15.00 an hour for the job? You’ll get what you pay for, let me tell you. I will admit, though, that the new breed of driver is lacking a certain professionalism that those of us who were there a long time ago exhibited. But that is a generational problem, which exhibits itself everywhere these days. Like I said above, the driver is not the enemy. San Franciscans should perhaps take the ultimate plunge and privatize the system. Then they’ll see what kind of service is out there and be nostalgic for the good old days.

  • We appreciate the passionate comments from everyone regarding Jenella’s letter. The goal of Muni Diaries is to provide a forum for open discussion and we aim to keep this forum (including the comments section) on-topic. We feel that some of the comments have become more personal, so we are closing the comments section for this post at this time. Questions? Please email us at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com. – Eugenia, Editor, Muni Diaries