Report: SEPTA, Union Making Progress on a Deal

SEPTA-bus-fusco

Action News is reporting SEPTA and Transit Workers Union Local 234, the transit agency’s largest union, are making progress toward a deal. A source told Channel 6 the sides are “getting close.”

SEPTA’s union voted unanimously to authorize a strike on Sunday, and TWU President Willie Brown said Monday he wouldn’t make a decision on when to strike until late in the week.

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Dear Willie Brown: Don’t Mess Up the Election

SEPTAbus48-driving-behind-taxi

Dear Willie Brown:

I’ve got a favor to ask. You’ve waited a long time to lead TWU 234 on strike — the 4,700 members of your union who work for SEPTA have been without a contract since March, and they’ve stayed at both their posts and at the negotiating table since then. That’s admirable.

Now your membership has decided it’s time to strike. Well, not right now, and not this week. Maybe next week.  Maybe even Monday, Nov. 3.

That’s a really bad idea.

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Union President: No SEPTA Strike This Week

Willie Brown

TWU Local 234 president Willie Brown

Transit Workers Union Local 234 president Willie Brown said there won’t be a SEPTA strike this week, despite the unanimous strike authorization vote by the union on Sunday. He did say the two sides were as far apart as “California and Pennsylvania” — and that he’d make a decision on whether to strike later in the week.

After some cajoling by a reporter, Brown did agree to give riders a 24-hour notice before striking, avoiding a situation like the surprise 3 a.m. Tuesday strike in November 2009. Brown updated reporters on his side of the contract impasse at a press conference at TWU Local 234’s headquarters on North Second Street Tuesday afternoon.

Previously, Brown has said the best day to strike is on a Monday. He didn’t make any explicit promises beyond Friday, but with his 24-hour notice period it seems unlikely there will be a strike until at least Monday, November 3rd.

Brown blamed SEPTA for the sides being so far apart. “This is not about economics, unlike past contracts,” he said. “It’s about ego.” Brown said the union would accept binding arbitration if SEPTA were to accept it. The union has been working without a contract since March.

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SEPTA’s Biggest Union Could Strike On Monday

Photo | Ben Schumin.

Photo | Ben Schumin.

[Update 3:29 p.m. Oct. 24] TWU is believed to be unlikely to strike on Monday, but there will be a strike vote on Sunday and a press conference on Monday at 4 p.m.

[Original] TWU Local 234, the largest of the transit unions representing SEPTA employees, has announced a strike authorization meeting for Sunday, October 26th at 3:00 p.m., meaning that the thousands of subway operators, bus drivers, mechanics and cashiers who are part of the union might not show up for work on Monday morning. Read more »

Obama Orders SEPTA Strikers Back to Work

Following a request earlier today by Gov. Tom Corbett, President Obama signed an executive order this evening that forces striking SEPTA Regional Rail engineers and electrical workers back on the job for the next 240 days while an arbitration board attempts to craft a settlement. Rail service is set to resume for tomorrow’s regularly scheduled first runs.

UPDATE: SEPTA Regional Rail Is on Strike

UPDATE, Saturday morning: It’s official:

ORIGINAL: In the event of a SEPTA strike this weekend by regional rail operators, SEPTA has released its contingency plans. A strike by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) could begin as early as 12:01 a.m. Saturday morning.

A strike would only cause the shutdown of regional rail train lines. There is an alternate service page to search for alternate stations on your route. Travelers headed to the airport can take the Broad Street Line to Snyder and transfer to the 37 bus, or Route 108 from 69th Street. Or, y’know, a taxi.

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Willie Brown Is a Changed Man

An observation: The Willie Brown of 2014 is not the Willie Brown of 2009.

Don’t misunderstand: They’re similar enough that it won’t really be a surprise if Brown eventually leads his union, TWU 234, on a strike that ends up shutting down SEPTA and inconveniencing tens of thousands of commuters sometime in the next couple of weeks.

But whereas the Willie Brown of 2009 seemed like he couldn’t strike fast enough — remember, TWU waited only until the World Series was over, then went on strike without any notice to the commuting public — the Willie Brown of 2014 genuinely seems like he’d like to avoid a work stoppage.

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Race and the Roots
of Philly Transit Strikes

In this Aug. 6, 1944 file photo an armed soldier stands guard in the back of a trolley in Philadelphia. President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent troops to break up a strike by transit workers who were protesting the hiring and promotion of African-Americans. (AP Photo/John Lindsay, File)

In this Aug. 6, 1944 file photo an armed soldier stands guard in the back of a trolley in Philadelphia. President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent troops to break up a strike by transit workers who were protesting the hiring and promotion of African-Americans. (AP Photo/John Lindsay, File)

As this is being typed, the news reports about contract negotiations between SEPTA and Transport Workers Union Local 234 sound increasingly optimistic. One of the main sticking points, pensions, has been resolved, and both the transit agency and TWU Local 234 head Willie Brown have issued statements saying that they hope a strike can be averted.

Yet some issues, including health care and worker surveillance, remain unresolved, and the union still stands ready to take a vote to strike when contracts for two TWU 234 suburban bargaining units expire on April 7th.

You may recall that initial strike threat was announced with incendiary language from Brown. Many, including this writer, found that rhetoric off-putting, or worse. But, as with so much else in this city, if you dig down far enough, you might just hear the ghosts of the past raising their voices through the mouth of Brown.

In this case, the ghosts are those of a racially motivated walkout that brought the TWU onto the local labor scene — and Federal troops onto the city’s streetcars.

The two events are connected: The TWU had just won the right to represent Philadelphia’s transit workers in 1944 — right in the middle of a three-year fight to get the Philadelphia Transportation Company (which ran buses and trolleys in the city) to end discrimination against black workers.

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Interview: Willie Brown Doesn’t Want a SEPTA Strike — but He’s Ready to Have One Anyway

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

It’s going to be a scary weekend for commuters in the Philadelphia region: The final contracts between SEPTA and its unions expire at midnight Sunday. The unions haven’t declared they’ll go on strike then — assuming the two sides still can’t settle a contract — but many residents were caught by surprise in 2009 when a SEPTA strike broke out suddenly after the last home game of the Phillies-Yankees World Series that year.

Willie Brown, the high-profile head of TWU 234, SEPTA’s largest union, won’t declare a strike deadline. He says he doesn’t want a strike. But he’s willing to have one if the two sides can’t get a contract. He talked to Philly Mag this week.

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SEPTA Plans for Midnight Strike

UPDATE 1:55 pm: 6ABC says a strike unlikely tonight:

A union source told Action News’ David Henry that despite the skipped bargaining session Friday morning, a transit strike is very unlikely this weekend, and would remain unlikely until contracts with two other unions representing SEPTA workers expire on April 6th.

The source cautioned against reading anything into union negotiators’ absence from Friday morning’s session, Henry reported. The source said union negotiators were simply not prepared for the 9:00 a.m. session after bargaining late into the night Thursday night.

ORIGINAL: Fox 29 reports SEPTA is planning for 4,700 Philadelphia bus drivers, subway and trolley operators and maintenance workers to strike at midnight. Union reps didn’t show up for today’s scheduled talks.

At a news conference held late Friday morning, SEPTA disclosed its contingency plans. In the event of a work stoppage, all city bus, trolley and subway lines will be discontinued. Some suburban buses will have changes.

The Market-Frankford, Broad Street and Broad-Ridge Spur lines will also not run.

A strike would not, however, affect service on the Regional Rail lines.

We at Philly Mag have made our own preparations! Christopher Sawyer has warned that a strike might hurt SEPTA’s credibility, while I wrote earlier this month how the union can inconvenience commuters without sacrificing worker solidarity. We’re planning on a lot more walking, in any case.

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