SEPTA Union May Strike on Election Day

Local 234 will vote Sunday on whether to authorize a strike that could last through November 8th.

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

The union representing SEPTA bus, subway and trolley operators will be asked to authorize a strike in the event that a new contract isn’t in place before November 1st, according to a report in PlanPhilly.

The 5,185-member Transport Workers Union Local 234 will vote on Sunday. Union president Willie Brown told the website he expects the members to authorize the strike. A “yes” vote wouldn’t make a strike inevitable, but it would give Brown the authority to call one if contract negotiations stall.

The negotiations don’t seem to be going that well right now. The union and management can’t even agree on where to meet to hold negotiations, Brown told PlanPhilly. SEPTA management downplayed the threat, saying that it isn’t unusual for unions to vote to authorize strikes during contract negotiations. (That’s true. Last month, faculty members at 14 state colleges and universities voted to authorize a strike in the event that negotiations fail, but no strike has been called yet.)

If the strike is authorized and Brown decides to go through with it, it could end up lasting through Election Day. While most people vote close to their homes, any shutdown of SEPTA service tends make getting around the city exponentially more difficult.

The threat of a strike on such an important day also gives the union leverage in these negotiations, and gives both sides an incentive to reach a deal quickly. The last SEPTA strike was in 2014, when Regional Rail employees stopped work. The bus and trolley workers also threatened to strike ahead of the World Series in 2009, when the Phillies faced the Yankees. But they ended up holding off until after the Phillies lost.

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