SEIU 1021

“Target on our backs”: SFMTA workers rally against unsafe working conditions
Parking control officers found out about the alleged upcoming “crackdown” announced through the news media – and they worry that it sets them up for increased risk of assault by disgruntled motorists.


Thursday, April 25, SFMTA parking control officers, station agents, and car cleaners rallied outside SFMTA headquarters. They are still in tough contract negotiations fighting for a fair contract, and one of their priorities is making sure SFMTA workers are safe on the job — and have input into important decisions that affect their work.

When the mayor and SFMTA management announced upcoming “intensive parking sweeps” in the news, it came as news to the parking control officers (PCOs) responsible for issuing tickets. It’s emblematic of the lack of a voice SFMTA’s frontline workers have into how they do their jobs. The lack of input has already led to increased safety risks – not just for PCOs, but also for SFMTA station agents, car cleaners, and other public-facing workers. 

Historically, increases in parking ticket fines and enforcement have led to increased assaults and threats to those tasked with delivering those tickets. But that’s not the only thing making SFMTA workers’  jobs more dangerous. In recent years, PCOs have dealt with a drug epidemic and homelessness crisis up close and personal. They are directed to clear encampments and warn, then ticket, people living in their vehicles, as well as enforcing parking rules in open-air drug markets. Confrontations with double-parked dealers and users have led to PCOs, who are unarmed, getting death threats and even having guns and other weapons pulled on them. 

“Announcements like these about ramping up enforcement put a target on our backs,” said Trevor Adams, a parking control officer and SEIU 1021 SFMTA PCO chapter president. “Not only are we already risking our safety every day out there doing work we are not trained or fully equipped to deal with, but we’re also expected to do work that would traditionally be associated with the police or public works. We are not a specialized task force, and when we do help clear the streets, it’s like a revolving door with little follow-up from the city to keep it clean.” 

PCOs are not the only SFMTA workers facing safety concerns on the job. Muni station agents, many of them women, mostly work solo, even late at night and early in the morning, and have no back-up when responding to fights and erratic behavior, having to ask people to move from entranceways, and other incidents. There is a 33% vacancy rate among SFMTA car cleaners, the workers who clean buses and trains overnight – and because they so frequently come in contact with pathogens, bodily fluids, drugs, and other hazardous materials, there is a high rate of workers out sick, on medical leave, or on workers’ comp at any given moment. That leaves a skeleton crew to clean hundreds of buses a night – meaning buses and trains often only get superficially cleaned as they struggle to keep up, potentially exposing riders to the same dangerous substances.

Read more about their rally and the issues they face on the job in the SF Standard here, or watch on CBS here.