Refusing to be bullied into concessions, SFMTA workers stand strong and speak out
Towards the end of last year, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency gave a budget presentation with various made-up budget scenarios heavily implying that layoffs would be necessary to balance the operating budget as a result of COVID-19’s impact. This was a transparent attempt by management to pressure members into giving back our hard-fought raises while we struggle to work safely through this pandemic.
“On Monday, November 30, Jeff Tumlin, the SFMTA Director of Transportation, announced at an all-staff conference call that the first round of federal relief money would run out on December 31, 2020 and that he was doing everything in his power to avoid layoffs. Who says “layoffs” right before the holidays without presenting alternative plans or suggestions?” asked Nicole Christian, a Senior Permit and Citations Clerk and Chapter Steward. “Our jobs, our homes, our families, our sanity, and our services are all at stake when SFMTA talks of layoffs. People are getting sick, sometimes dying or dealing with long-term health issues. Staff understandably panicked at first, but then rather than be bullied into giving up our raises, we started speaking up and demanding that management show us a real plan forward that demonstrates that they care about workers and our services.”
Despite management presenting doomsday scenarios to create fear among workers, members continued to hold the line since the budget revision in the summer and refused to give up concessions before every option was explored. We started organizing to turn people out to SFMTA Board budget workshops and speak up during public comment to present alternative paths forward and condemn the fear-mongering and intimidation during this already these already trying times. Not long after, it was announced that $373.8 million in federal relief money was on the way, largely addressing the immediate budget concerns.
“Management talks a lot about how thankful they are for us and how we’re essential, but I don’t need them to tell me that. I need them to show me. Make sure we’re safe, make sure we have the compensation we need to survive, and don’t threaten to take workers’ jobs away while we’re out here doing the work of 2-3 people in the middle of a pandemic to keep San Francisco moving,” said Trevor Adams, an SFMTA Parking Control Officer and Chapter President. “The budget workshops have been fascinating—as a worker, it makes me realize that the people running this agency don’t understand what frontline workers do and how our departments work. That’s why it’s been so important for us to participate in public comment and to speak up. Elected officials and the people running SFMTA need hear from us and start including frontline workers in decision-making.”