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CITY TAKES MUNI UNION TO TASK FOR STOPPED CABLE CARS It would seem that San Francisco has painted a Muni workers’ union into a corner. The city’s famed cable cars came to a screeching halt one Wednesday morning last month when workers took them out of service for a couple of hours to protest management’s handling of a personnel matter. Now the city is suing Transport Workers’ Union, Local 250-A, pointing to a clause in its labor agreement that clearly prohibits “strikes, slowdowns or work stoppages.” The local isn’t saying how it might dance out from under that argument. Union President William Sisk, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment on the suit last week. Back in early March, though, he told the San Francisco Chronicle that Muni management had already broken the contract by ignoring requirements when it disciplined two cable car workers. Asked at the time about the legality of the March 2 halt in service, Sisk responded, “I didn’t give a damn if it was legal,” the Chronicle reported. The city says it was caught off guard that day when conductors and gripmen directed passengers to disembark, and then drove the cable cars back to a storage barn. The suit accuses Sisk and other union officials of masterminding the episode, then thwarting attempts to reroute buses to the affected areas. Though service was only derailed for a little more than two hours, the city says it’s concerned about a repeat performance. “Union officials have repeatedly threatened to engage in other work stoppages in the future,” Deputy City Attorney Martin Gran asserts in the city’s complaint. And the contract doesn’t expire until 2008. “If you don’t have a contract, you don’t have anything,” said Maggie Lynch, spokeswoman for the agency that oversees Muni. Transportation officials deny they broke the contract first. But if the union had a beef, Lynch said, it should have taken it to arbitration — and it since has. — Pam Smith ON THE BANDWAGON A second insurance company apparently worried about a possible payout in several clergy sex abuse cases has filed suit in U.S. district court against the Roman Catholic Bishop of Oakland. The basis for United States Fire Insurance Co.’s March 24 claim is strikingly similar to that of Travelers Casualty & Surety Co.’s: We can’t find a policy — you sure you had one? An attorney for U.S. Fire, Gordon & Rees’ Tulin Acikalin, declined to comment. But according to its complaint, U.S. Fire claims it “conducted a diligent search of its own records and has found no evidence that a policy was ever issued” between 1970 and 1971, as the diocese contends. The Oakland diocese wants the insurer to contribute to a settlement of one or more lawsuits against the church, U.S. Fire said in its complaint. It wants a judge’s determination. Los Angeles attorney Stephen McFeely, who has been representing the Oakland Diocese in court-mandated settlement talks for the past month, could not be reached for comment. The complaint in United States Fire Insurance v. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Oakland, 051203, is similar to a March 3 U.S. district court complaint filed by Travelers, which also said it can’t find any evidence that it was the Oakland bishop’s main insurer between 1976 and 1981, as the church claims. Travelers wants relief from paying out money to victims in 52 cases who claim they were abused by priests or other church officials. McFeely last month called the Travelers suit “a stunt” and questioned its timing, as settlement talks have been under way for months. The Oakland cases are part of Clergy III, a group of about 150 Northern California cases carved out of more than 800 clergy abuse suits filed statewide. — Warren Lutz

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