A meeting that started with a discussion over a $7 million allocation for Muni operations turned into a heated debate on race relations, with Supervisor Chris Daly suggesting that colleague Sean Elsbernd’s petition to reform labor work rules was beset with “racial undertones.”
The scene of the argument took place at the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (which is governed by the Board of Supervisors), and started when Elsbernd began advocating against work-rule measures that would give Muni’s operators union about $9 million in salary increases next fiscal year. Elsbernd is leading a signature-gathering effort to reform the structure of the operator union’s contract, which is guaranteed in the City Charter.
Daly countered, asking why Elsbernd was “picking on a bargaining unit that is disproportionately black,” while ignoring work rules for other unions, such as the group representing The City’s police officers.
Elsbernd protested the insinuation that he was acting in a racist manner, and Supervisor Bevan Dufty added that he was “disappointed by the type of discussion here, where a Supervisor is inferring that a colleague is acting on something that is racially motivated.”
Dufty also added that he “wants to disassociate” himself from Daly’s remarks.
Daly responded, saying that he didn’t think Elsbernd’s signature-gathering petition was racially motivated, but that it had “racial undertones.”
“There is a history of racism and in order to deal with it wholistically, you have to account for it and acknowledge it,” Daly said. “If a white politician moves forward with something that negatively affects a predominantly African-American class, even if the intentions are righteous, you have to accept that there are racial undertones.”
Daly then added a parting shot to Dufty: “We haven’t been associated for some time.”