Member Leaders Successfully Push for a Fairer Telematics Policy

Last year, San Francisco Supervisor Norman Yee proposed legislation that aimed to increase efficiency in city vehicles and reduce accidents and fatalities, modeled after New York City’s successful program.

Supervisor Yee propositioned amending Admin Code by adding a Telematics Vehicle Tracking System for City vehicles.

The legislation went into effect in July 2016 and mandated that all city vehicles be updated with telematics devices—a “black box” that provides GPS location, speed, oil change data, etc.

Prior to the legislation, about 30% of city vehicles already had this technology, but it was inconsistently applied across departments and there were multiple vendors. The City now aims to bring everything under one vendor for more uniformity and accountability. The telematics policy was to be implemented in January 2017.

City unions, including Local 21, shared Supervisor Yee’s goals for pedestrian safety, but were apprehensive that the legislation could be used to unfairly discipline employees.

Local 21 was concerned with who would be able to see the data collected on specific city vehicles, and how that data could be used to track and discipline employees. Discipline under the new policy could mean counseling, investigation, or re-training, but there was no order in which way it would escalate. The new telematics policy included things already covered in the Vehicle Use Policy, but the City wanted to begin tracking, and then possibly disciplining, employees for things like “fast acceleration” and “hard breaking.”

Supervisor Yee was responsive to our concerns and helped set up a Meet and Confer with DHR (Department of Human Resources) to discuss the policy. A Meet and Confer is an obligatory negotiation that occurs when an employer wants to make a change to terms and conditions of employment. When employees are represented by a union, the employer can’t simply make changes at will, and must “meet and confer in good faith” with the union. When workers don’t have a union, employers can impose changes at will.

DHR met with Local 21 at the start of November 2016 to discuss the telematics policy implementation. Local 21 member leader Jason Rohwer (Field Operators)participated, and Local 21 worked closely with SEIU 1021 staff and activists as well.

At the initial telematics Meet and Confer with DHR, Local 21 member leader Steve Senatori (Information Technology Chapter) provided useful insight on the technology, and member leader Javier Lacayo (Chemist and Laboratory Professionals Chapter) gave important feedback on the types of challenges drivers face, especially outside city limits.

After the Meet and Confers, Local 21 and the City came to the agreement that each department would have one administrator for the telematics program who would oversee reports and data, so that individual supervisors could not use the new technology to unfairly target or harass employees. Local 21 also successfully pushed back on the fast accelerating and hard breaking measures, as there was no way for the telematics technology to provide context for why a driver could decide to hard break, such as a child running onto the road. Instead, the Department agreed to focus on behaviors already listed in the Vehicle Use Policy such as speeding, texting, and using the car for non-business purposes. Local 21 also successfully pushed to provide additional training and incentives for drivers, rather than jumping straight to discipline, and made sure that the policy language focused on patterns of unsafe behavior, such as multiple instances of speeding, rather than one-time mistakes. All vehicles that are equipped with Telematics technology will also have a large notification on the drivers’ dash so that drivers are aware their car is being monitored.

Local 21 will be meeting with the city in the future to address any additional concerns that come up as this new program gets off the ground. Thank you to member leaders Jason Rohwer, Steve Senatori, Javier Lacayo for providing much needed insight on how the new policy would affect employees, and to Local 21 Representatives Emma Erbach and Amihan Makayan for leading the Meet and Confer efforts with the City.