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San Francisco Muni Drivers Threatening Illegal Strike

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5 / KCBS) -- The transit union representing San Francisco's bus drivers and train operators is threatening to strike after less than two months of contract talks, even though their existing contract and the city charter prohibits it.

A flier distributed by some members of Transit Workers Union Local 250 A, and provided to CBS 5 on Monday by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, indicated that a strike authorization vote by the union's membership was underway.

City negotiators said they have just entered into the second month of contract talks with the TWU and two other unions representing Muni employees. The current labor agreement doesn't expires until June and the strike threat seemed to take city officials by surprise.

"Any strike threat at this point violates numerous sections in our current labor agreement, the Charter of the City and County of San Francisco and the Government Code," said Debra Johnson, the lead negotiator for the city.

Union president Rafael Cabrera has not publicly commented on the strike vote, but the flier that was circulated suggested the sticking points in the negotions to date were wages and retirement benefits.

KCBS' Chris Filippi Reports:

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"San Francisco Has Plenty of Money – Our Salaries and Pensions are Not the Problem," reads the flier.

Johnson disputed that claim, noting that the SFMTA currently faces an $18 million deficit for the fiscal year ending in June.

She added that the average Muni operator now earns more than $101,000 a year in salary and benefits.

"Contrary to the union rhetoric, SMFTA and the city are trying to close budget shortfalls," said Johnson. "We need to find ways to cut costs, not spend more and more every year."

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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