As Friday Deadline Looms, SEPTA and Union Are Talking

While a strike seems unlikely, it was just five years ago that the TWU staged a "surprise strike."
An employee of Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority raises his fist in the air, Friday, Oct. 28, 2005, while entering a SEPTA bus depot in north Philadelphia. | AP Photo, Joseph Kaczmarek

An employee of Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority raises his fist in the air, Friday, Oct. 28, 2005, while entering a SEPTA bus depot in north Philadelphia. | AP Photo, Joseph Kaczmarek

Dun dun dun. We are just over a day away from the day when the largest contract that Transport Workers Union Local 234 has with SEPTA expires. The Inquirer‘s Paul Nussbaum writes that no strike seems imminent — the suburban contract doesn’t expire until April — but the deadline still has to leave commuters feeling anxious.

Why? In 2009, the TWU went on strike without warning at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday — which seemed to defeat the purpose of threatening to strike,  eliminating the possibility of an 11th-hour agreement — and inconveniencing everyone in the region in the process.

Perhaps that was a strategy to get better terms this contract: As we now know from precedent SEPTA could strike at any time once their contract is up. Who knows? Although he lost a 2010 union election, Willie Brown returned to the presidency in a vote last year.

Further details, from the Inquirer:

The base salary for new SEPTA bus drivers is $33,887, and drivers with four or more years of experience are paid $55,620 a year. Including overtime pay, the typical TWU member makes $64,847 a year, SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams said.

“Whether or not there is a strike is in the union’s court,” Williams said. “SEPTA management remains ready to address the issues and explore common solutions, and we are hopeful that good-faith negotiations will eventually result in a contract.”

Nussbaum is right; we are almost certainly safe until April. But if you don’t mind I will be keeping my fingers crossed for the next month or so.