"I understand that there are no good decisions," Daly told the Guardian, adding that a certain group of workers seem to bearing the brunt of the cuts. "What progressive supervisors are calling for is for the budget to be handled more evenly," he said.
A single Municipal Executives' Association (MEA) employee — an MTA manager earning between $105,950 and $135,200 per year — was let go during this latest round of about 100 Muni layoffs, according to an agency memo. In the past year, MTA reduced its upper-level management team from 108 to 96 employees. In contrast, 33 members of SEIU Local 1021 — the majority frontline workers earning between $45,656 and $64,272 a year — will be affected by the cuts.
"Unfortunately, when MTA discovered that they had a budget problem, they didn't bring all parties to the table," SEIU Organizer Leah Berlanga testified at the Budget and Finance Committee hearing. "The way we got invited was via pink slips. That's the only time they will talk to people who do direct services."
When asked whether Muni had assessed mid- and upper-management level jobs to even the scales, True responded that a few mid-level managers were included in the latest round of cuts. One reason the layoffs seem disproportionate, he added, is that there are so many more frontline workers than others. "The budget picture has affected the entire agency," he said. "No one is happy about these decisions."
But SEIU Local 1021 characterized the layoffs as misguided, and attempted to identify waste and mismanagement within the agency in a packet of alternative cost-saving measures it submitted to MTA. At the top of the list was the suggestion that the agency eliminate 35 retired Muni employees, who are allowed to work up to 960 hours per year and earn wages in addition to their pensions. And according to the union, there are 21 temporary workers in the agency who've exceeded a two-year limit for short-term employment. SEIU recommended that those temps be dismissed too.
SEIU also criticized the decision to lay off 24 parking control officers (PCOs) — uniformed workers who have the unenviable job of issuing parking citations to bring in revenue for the city. "To me, if you do the simple math, it doesn't make any sense. They make most of the money for the MTA," said a PCO who testified at the hearing.
According to SEIU's calculations, eliminating 24 employees who dole out parking tickets could result in a $7.2 million loss for the city in parking revenue. But True said MTA disagrees with this figure, and pointed to an internal memo showing how revenue from parking citations dropped in recent years even as more PCOs were hired. Nonetheless, at the urging of SEIU, the MTA Board agreed to postpone those 24 layoffs until February to buy time to study the impact. For other positions, negotiations between MTA and the union are ongoing. The details on still more layoffs, which will affect transit operators, is yet to come.
Sup. David Campos is asking for a management audit to see if Muni is spending its money efficiently. "I think we should look at best practices and how we're operating before we finalize any cuts," he said.
THE PARKING POLITICS
During a round of MTA budget talks last fall, the idea of extending city parking meter hours and raising meter fees was floated as a means of recouping losses — but Newsom balked at the idea, saying higher parking fees could harm small businesses. Now MTA Director Bruce Oka has revived — and endorsed — the concept.