3 Ways Willie Brown Can Make the Public Less Angry About the Coming SEPTA Strike

We’re the hostages in this negotiation. It’s a tough way to build solidarity.

SEPTA-strike-philly-fusco

Even in a union-dominated town like Philly, it’s hard to generate a lot of enthusiasm or sympathy for Transport Workers Local 234.

The union — which may be striking soon — has a few things going against it. SEPTA workers aren’t (ahem) always highly thought of in Philly anyway. They’re fighting for benefits, paid by us, that few of us would get in our own private sector lives. And when push comes to shove, the union’s trump card is to make you and me — the commuting and driving public — feel as much pain as possible. That’s what the strike is designed to do, after all.




We’re the hostage in these negotiations. It’s bound to produce some antagonism.

Still, I’d like to offer the transit union (and its chief, Willie Brown) a couple of pieces of advice for how to handle this next strike — if, indeed a strike occurs — to minimize the anger felt by the public. Assuming, of course, anybody in the union actually cares.

Three small requests:

Give us some warning this time: In 2009, it was awfully swell of the union to wait until the World Series was over before striking; had the six-day strike started any earlier — while the Yankees were in town — the black eye to the city would’ve been notorious. That was the good news.

The bad news was, nobody understood the strike would begin as soon as the Series was over. The chaos that resulted (as commuters gradually became aware that their buses and trolleys weren’t coming for them) was much greater than it needed to be. Then again, maybe that was the point. But it’s a rough way to generate solidarity.

Actually get out and strike: Yes, there were pickets here and there in 2009, but they seemed few and far apart, giving rise to suspicions that many SEPTA workers just wanted to have a couple of days off. If you want pay and benefits so badly you’ll strike over them, then work hard enough to be present at the pickets — show the public you, too, are making a sacrifice.

When it’s over, give something back to the community: Maybe you work with SEPTA to create a free day of ridership. Maybe the union makes a donation to city schools. Just something — something that makes riders feel like more than bargaining tools in all of this.

There will be no way to keep people from feeling anger if a strike does come. But there’s no reason to exacerbate the anger, either. Here’s hoping TWU understands that solidarity is a two-way street.

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.

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  • Northeaster

    #1 Should have been “don’t be jerks and strike”

  • matthew brandley

    The only way for the union to do any good is to get that no good fat ass ebonics speaking goon willie brown to remove his said fat ass from the table and have a normal speaking human being who has respect for the riding public, aka the tax payers who pay these union thugs paychecks every 2 weeks negotiate a contract thats not going to screew septa or the riders over

  • Ken Hamilton

    Sorry Joel Mathis, there is NOTHING, not one thing that would save the public image of the thuggish union, except having their butts on the job, and actually DOING it!

  • Anna

    I know what I’ll be doing. I’ll be buying a bike with my paycheck and begin a boycott of Septa myself. While I’m biking to work everyday I will also be working on getting my license and putting my $91 every month to better use then paying for some fat fucks to sit on their asses and do nothing but drive for $23+ per hour and complain the whole time. Fuck you septa!!

    • Anonymous

      I’m a Septa Bus Operator and I must admit we have no control over this Strike situation. TWU makes the final decision whether we strike or not. The majority of the workers that the union represent are not even aware of whats going on. Dealing with the hateful public isn’t easy! But we would much rather be at work earning our hard earned paychecks to support our families than to be on the street picketing for our Cost Of Living Salary Increases, Medical Benefits and Pension Plans that the Big Septa Gurus are trying to Strip from us! … And for ya’ll Septa haters that claim we get paid too much money an hour to sit behind a wheel driving a bus all day, ask yourself this: What’s a reasonable salary for a driver that has to endure the hateful public for 8hrs a day? People attack us, spit on us, throw things at us, curse us out, evade paying the fare, cut us off on the road, school kids disrespect us and swarm our buses, plus we have to assist the elderly and disabled riders as well. All of this drama plus much more! .. while trying to MAINTAIN SCHEDULE in our traffic congested city and avoiding Septa Supervisors who are always lurking on the hunt! .. Our job is easy? Ha!, most operators don’t even make it past training and some quit before their first month after dealing with ya’ll Ratchet Welfare Cheese Maggots! :-p

  • Anonymous

    I’m a Septa Bus Operator and I must admit we have no control over this Strike situation. TWU makes the final decision whether we strike or not. The majority of the workers that the union represent are not even aware of whats going on. Dealing with the hateful public isn’t easy! But we would much rather be at work earning our hard earned paychecks to support our families than to be on the street picketing for our Cost Of Living Salary Increases, Medical Benefits and Pension Plans that the Big Septa Gurus are trying to Strip from us! … And for ya’ll Septa haters that claim we get paid too much money an hour to sit behind a wheel driving a bus all day, ask yourself this: What’s a reasonable salary for a driver that has to endure the hateful public for 8hrs a day? People attack us, spit on us, throw things at us, curse us out, evade paying the fare, cut us off on the road, school kids disrespect us and swarm our buses, plus we have to assist the elderly and disabled riders as well. All of this drama plus much more! .. while trying to MAINTAIN SCHEDULE in our traffic congested city and avoiding Septa Supervisors who are always lurking on the hunt! .. Our job is easy? Ha!, most operators don’t even make it past training and some quit before their first month after dealing with ya’ll Ratchet Welfare Cheese Maggots! :-p

    • Seth Schwendeman

      I have news for you: a union is supposed to represent its members and their best interests. A union is supposed to make decisions on its member’s behalves and include its members in the negotiation process. If you claim to have “no control” over an impending strike, it simply means that you and all of your co-workers have lost control over your representatives. Do any of the TWU members even understand what a union truly is and what it is supposed to accomplish? It’s rather humorous how one-sided your argument really is. I work with the “hateful” public all day long and I am not represented by a union, I cannot simply walk off the job, and I cannot hold others hostage for wages and benefits that I may or may not deserve. So, how is it that TWU members deliver piss-poor customer service on a regular basis and expect contracted raises and admiration in return? Am I to lose wages due to increased taxes to subsidize member’s wage increases and not call this income redistribution? And, according to this logic, just who is receiving welfare here? Akin to an untrained and unmanageable animal , the average TWU member has attacked the riding public, and, much to its own chagrin, it has bitten the multitudinous hands which have been feeding it. While striking and not picketing (quite the paradox), please remember that there are a great many people capable of driving a bus and, not to be likened to picking vegetables, there are a great many people willing to do it for $24 an hour. So, when the time comes and the membership is on the prowl for that one last piece of meat to savor as animals do, remember one word: SCAB.

  • union solidarity

    Being a SEPTA bus operator and TWU member, I found some of Mr Mathis’ comments humorous and some insightful. I enjoyed the blog as a whole as an expression of his opinions. Many of the points presented were right on and I doubt any TWU member would take issue with them. We were also blindsided by the call of an unannounced strike at 3 AM. Many of us traveled to work, only to learn upon arriving at locked doors and coworkers milling about outside the locations, that we were on strike. A strike Mr Brown admitted he called at the time because he angry over Mayor Nutter saying there wouldn’t be a strike (the Mayor actually said there wouldn’t be a strike during the World Series games in Philly, which turned out to be true) and that he would have done it differently if he could have [a do over – perhaps this time will be the do over?]. While many members did travel to the various and numerous job locations to do time on the strike lines, of course greater action would have been wonderful. Perhaps akin to what was done in 1998: slowing down traffic on the highways, blocking regional rail trains in the yards, holding demonstrations throughout the city and suburbs (even picketing outside SEPTA board members homes)? And giving back to the communities: I agree a stronger and greater relationship would be forged with the citizens of Philadelphia and the riders of the system, if union members got involved in the fights, both big and small, in the communities we work in. And provided help and support to families and people in need on a regular basis. Not when contracts are due – would be transparent – but all the time. Members of TWU also live in the neighborhoods the system travels through and do get involved. Perhaps it’s time to show their involvement in the lives of Philadelphians by wearing their union colors while doing it?