Unvaccinated SFMTA employees want less strict vaccine mandate

First it was first responders and law enforcement, now San Francisco's Muni workers are facing a deadline to get vaccinated or lose their jobs. That deadline is set for the end of this month.

Hundreds of SFMTA workers are under the threat of get vaccinated or lose their jobs, and that could impact everything from Muni service to school crossing guards.

SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin told the agency's board that about 640 of its workers haven't revealed their vaccination status, 300 of them are transit operators and are presumably unvaccinated. 

"If 640 of our employees or even half of that number are still unvaccinated as of November 1st and are put on leave or terminated it will significantly impact transit operations and parking control throughout the city," said Director Tumlin.

Roger Marenco from Transport Workers Union Local 250-A says the union is working to support transit operators to make vaccination decisions that work best for their families. He doesn't want to see any transit operators lose their jobs, and wants flexibility from the city. "What we at TWU Local 250-A is asking the mayor and City Hall is to rescind the policy of get ‘vaxed’ or get fired, and implement a policy of get ‘vaxed’ or get tested," said Marenco.

The union says the city's order could impact as much as 15% of transit operators. That could hobble the transit system just as the city is pushing for an economic recovery. 

"Transit operators are the bloodline that gives life to this city," said Marenco. "Without transit operators the city does not move. Without transit operators nobody goes to work, school, church, shopping, their doctors office. Nothing happens without the transit operators."

SFMTA Director Tumlin says transit operators are just one part of a much bigger transit puzzle. Hundreds of other SFMTA workers are also at risk of losing their jobs.

"The loss of these workers on November 1st would force the agency to fully or partly suspend abandoned vehicle enforcement,  booting, commuter shuttle bus enforcement, residential parking permit enforcement and some meter enforcement," said Tumlin.

Muni has already been struggling to return service levels to pre-COVID levels. If they lose those worker it could take 18 months to train replacements, further slowing the return to pre-pandemic service.