Could the 2016 SEPTA Strike Be the Last One Ever?

SEPTA 15th Street Station closed - locked gate

Two laws offer the possibility of making scenes like this a thing of the past. | Photo: Dan McQuade

Now that Transport Workers Union Local 234 has ratified a new, five-year contract that was pretty much what SEPTA had offered it on the eve of this latest transit strike — and which completely fails to address any of the valid scheduling matters the union raised during the run-up to the strike — it may be time to ask once again: Isn’t there some way we can get SEPTA and the TWU to end this recurring brinksmanship?

The answer to that question might be “yes,” but remember, this is Philadelphia, where old habits don’t die without a fight and contentious labor relations have a long and storied history. The union that has represented the bulk of SEPTA’s workforce since 1944 has a history of militancy, and it’s managed to maintain that reputation by walking more often than not when contract renewal time comes. Read more »

Health Department: Air Quality Worsened During SEPTA Strike

'Station Closed' sign at SEPTA El stop, man smoking in background

The entrance to the Market-Frankford Line and the underground concourse at 12th Street is closed on the first day of the SEPTA strike | Photo by Dan McQuade

If it was a little harder to breathe the first week of November, you weren’t just hyperventilating at the possibility of President Trump.

According to the the Philadelphia Department of Health, air quality was markedly worse during the six-day SEPTA strike. “At its peak, during morning rush hours, levels of fine particles, known as PM2.5, were four times higher during the strike than before,” the Health Department says in a release. Read more »

Activists Hand Out “SEPTA Inconvenience Passes” for Riders

SEPTA Inconvenience Passes

Activists including Rufus Farmer (right) hold giant “Inconvenience Pass” signs outside SEPTA headquarters at 1234 Market Street on Monday. | Photo: Dan McQuade

Activists today handed out “Inconvenience Passes” in front of SEPTA headquarters and at Dilworth Plaza, calling on the transit authority to reimburse riders for the time and money lost during the SEPTA strike.

“SEPTA officials claimed in court that they are concerned about the health, safety and welfare of the public, particularly the poor, the disabled and the 52,000 students who rely on mass transit to get to schools,” said Erica Mines, a Philadelphia activist who led today’s protest. “But the inconvenience to riders stems from their refusal to negotiate a fair contract with SEPTA workers. If SEPTA is so concerned, the public agency should provide the people of Philadelphia a free transit ride for each day of the strike.” Read more »

SEPTA Asks Court to End Strike

CLOSED STATION sign during SEPTA strike

The entrance to the City Hall and 15th Street stations in downtown Philadelphia is closed during the SEPTA strike | Photo: Dan McQuade

SEPTA is trying to resolve the transit union strike by turning to the courts, but struck out in its first attempt at convincing a judge to force workers to go back on the job.

Calling the strike “a clear and present danger to the health, safety and welfare of our riders and the citizens of Philadelphia and the region,” SEPTA filed an injunction Fridays afternoon, seeking an immediate halt to the strike by Transit Workers Union Local 234. Read more »

SEPTA Strike, Day 4: What Now?

SEPTA commuters in long lines at Suburban

SEPTA commuters wait in line at Suburban Station during rush hour. | Photo by Dan McQuade

The good news is that the week is almost over. Most likely all that’s left in your week of hellish commutes is one more trip home and then you’re done for two days. Or maybe you don’t have a Monday-Friday work schedule. Your commutes over the next two days should still be much better than they’ve been this week. It’s Friday. Exhale.

There’s more good news, too. SEPTA and Transit Workers Union Local 234 traded barbs over the past 36 hours, which means they’ve gotten that out of their system. The two sides have been negotiating again.

But the rest of it is bad news. Read more »

SEPTA, Union Pointing Fingers at One Another Over Contract Impasse

Transit Workers Union Local 234 Headquarters

Photo | Dan McQuade

We’ve apparently entered the point of the SEPTA strike where the sides fight with each other in press releases to the media. Dutifully, we bring you these remarks.

On Wednesday night, SEPTA sent out a release titled “SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale T. Deon Calls for TWU Local 234 to Engage in Good Faith Negotiations.” In the statement, Deon said the union was unfairly hurting the citizens of Philadelphia: “A strike should be an option of last resort – and once you go out, there needs to be added urgency to reach an agreement and get back to work. On several occasions this week, SEPTA negotiators believed progress toward a deal had been made. However, at each of those seemingly positive turns, TWU Local 234 has brought a halt to negotiations.”

Deon said SEPTA had been bargaining in good faith and adopted an entirely new pension plan at the request of Transit Workers Union Local 234. He said SEPTA offered to remove current compensation cap on pensions and enhance benefits by 8 percent. Deon also said SEPTA also offered wage increases, “modest” health care changes — in five years, the cost of the “Cadillac” health care plan would go from $10 a week to $41 — and responded to operational concerns SEPTA workers had.

The union, as you might’ve guessed, has a different opinion. Read more »

SEPTA Strike, Day 3: Negotiations and Commuting Chaos Continue

'Station Closed' sign at SEPTA El stop, man smoking in background

The entrance to the Market-Frankford Line and the underground concourse at 12th Street is closed on the first day of the SEPTA strike | Photo: Dan McQuade

Three days have passed since close to 5,000 unionized SEPTA workers walked off the job, halting all of the city’s public transportation save for Regional Rail, which is feeling the brunt of trying to mitigate the effects of the strike. Read more »

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