What happens when a public transportation system serving around 700,000 passengers per day comes to a complete stop? The people of San Francisco got to find out this week as the “San Francisco sickout” enters its third day.
San Francisco transit workers are at odds with the city’s Municipal Transit Agency (Muni) over a proposed two year labor contract that transit workers overwhelmingly rejected by a staggering majority of 1,198 no votes to 42 yes votes. The workers, represented by Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, are prohibited in their current contract from going on strike, but they are permitted to call in sick. And that they did. According to ABC News, what has been termed as the “San Francisco sickout” is now in its 3rd day.
San Francisco’s famous cable cars still sat out of service on Wednesday, but Muni’s spokesman, Paul Rose, said that light rail trains and buses have returned to their normal schedules. The agency was operating at 70% of normal service on Wednesday which is up from Tuesday’s 50% and Monday’s low of 33% of normal service. To this end, Mr. Rose and others at Muni are hoping the end of the “sickout” is in sight;
“The fact that we have more vehicles on the street than the last two days leaves us cautiously optimistic,” he said.
According to ABC News, the new labor contract that transport workers rejected would have given them an 11% raise over the next two years but would have required them to cover a 7.5% pension payment which is currently paid by Muni. If the contract would have been accepted, it would have raised worker pay to $32.00 per hour, which would have made San Francisco transit workers the second highest paid workers in the country.
But the contract wasn’t accepted and the San Francisco sickout ensued. Those workers who called in may be in for a rude awakening upon their return to work. According to US News and World Report, the city’s attorney, Dennis Herrera, has filed a charge of unfair labor practices against the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A.
Mr. Herrera said that the contract between Transport Workers Union Local 250-A and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency forbids strikes and work stoppages such as the sickout. He further stated that he hopes filing the unfair labor practices charge will spur the union to do the right thing. The workers’ union president, Eric Williams, further stated that his group had nothing to do with the workers calling in sick and advised workers that those who called in sick should be prepared to have a doctor’s note upon their return to work.
The San Francisco sickout comes as the latest event in a series of possibly unrelated moves over the last few months by organized labor pushing for larger pay raises for their workers (Inquisitr News-Burger King Workers Stay True To Their Multi-Nation Joint Walkout).
As the US economy remains less than robust, labor disputes like the San Francisco sickout are all but too likely to continue.