The Philadelphia Public School Notebook reports that the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to strike down the school district’s recent decision to strike down seniority rules when assigning teachers to schools.
6ABC reports: “Talks continue between SEPTA and union officials and both sides are optimistic that a strike will be adverted. The executive board of local 234 met Thursday night to discuss logistics for a possible strike Monday – if a deal with SEPTA can’t get done. Union president Willie Brown emerged from secretive talks around 8:30 p.m., saying a deal is imminent.”
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.
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.
Each year, labor unions of a certain size are required to file annual reports with the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. The most recent report filed by IBEW Local 98, aka the powerful electricians union headed by Johnny Doc, covers 2012, and reports numbers like assets (Local 98 has over $22 million in net assets), salaries and other disbursements to officers and employees (Johnny Doc received $210,035, while at least 15 other officers received over $100,000), and other monies spent. Read more »
So, like my occasional flare-ups of hemorrhoids, I see the Transport Workers of America Local 234 has reared its ugly butt once again. Anyone who lives in Philadelphia for a given length of time will eventually encounter the major inconvenience of a transit strike. These things happen with regular frequency, like the Olympics. It disrupts the city, throws hundreds of thousands of commuters into chaos, and it’s accepted as a fact of life. In fact, TWU234 is the most strikiest union there is in Philadelphia.
Four SEPTA contracts are set to expire between now and April 7th, and the leadership of the Local 234 Transport Workers Union says that a SEPTA strike is looming if negotiations don’t go in its favor. “If negotiations fail,” reads a memo sent by TWU Local 234 to its members on Monday, “the unions representing SEPTA workers may all be on strike at the same time, idling bus, trolley, train and regional rail service for the first time ever.” Read more »
There’s a fascinating story in today’s Inquirer by Jeremy Roebuck, detailing the Pennsylvania law that exempts union members in labor disputes from prosecution for stalking, harassment and terroristic threats. Hot dog! And here I thought fair pay and better working conditions were the only benefits of joining a union.
The exemption dates back to the New Deal 1930s, and Republican State Rep. Ron Miller says Pennsylvania “might be the only state to still have an exception like this.” At a hearing last year, AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Frank Snyder defended the law — but worried the exemption could be used to shield employers. (No word on what William Green would think it.)