In a dramatic shift, the Transport Workers Union of America Local 250-A joined the citywide battle against Muni fare hikes and service cuts. The union, which represents the City’s Muni drivers, agreed to fight alongside a broad coalition of low-income families, environmentalists, seniors, youth, religious and homeless people to stop the Municipal Transportation Authority’s (MTA) current proposal to eliminate lines and raise fares in order to close their current $57 million budget gap.
The announcement, to be made today at a 1:30 rally on the steps of City Hall, comes near the end of a long and contentious battle with the MTA over their 2005-06 budget. Despite pleas throughout the process from both riders and drivers to balance their deficit on those most able to afford it, MTA Executive Director Michael Burns has consistently pushed for fee hikes and service cuts. The alliance between Muni riders and drivers represents a joining of forces that will be far more difficult for public officials to ignore.
This alliance was made formal when Local 250-A announced they were joining the Coalition for Transit Justice. This coalition includes more than 25 non-profits and community organizations as well as a growing number of Muni riders who have declared public transportation a human right and who have fought steadfastly against fee hikes and service cuts.
Despite a City Charter mandate to actively seek new sources of revenue, Burns and the MTA has not done so, even after being presented with a variety of possibilities for raising funds. Various options to tax downtown interests in particular have been presented to Burns, but not investigated by the MTA. Instead, Burns provided five budget proposals at a public hearing last week, only one of which Burns deemed “realistic” – a plan that would include service cuts and fare hikes, thus balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.
The MTA will vote on a Burns’ proposals this Monday at 2 p.m. at City Hall. Activists have announced plans to turn out large numbers of Muni riders to protest the fee hikes and service cuts that many believe the MTA will likely push through. Members of the Muni drivers’ union will join protestors in showing public opposition to this budget proposal.
Once the MTA votes on Burns’ budget proposals, the battle will turn to the Board of Supervisors. Several Supes, including Tom Ammiano, Chris Daly and Ross Mirkarimi have voiced opposition to a fare hike. To vote down the budget presented to the Board by the MTA, eight votes would be required. Board President Aaron Peskin, who also opposes fee hikes, believes seven votes already exist against a budget that includes fare hikes.
In related news, Beyond Chron reported last week that a member of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 790 publicly declared at a recent MTA hearing that 790 supported fare hikes. Since then, we have learned that the individual was not in fact representing SEIU’s position. The union is still considering its stance on fee hikes and service cuts.