SEPTA Union Votes to Authorize Strike

TWU Local 234 voted unanimously in favor of a strike that could begin at the end of the month and continue past Election Day.
Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

The Regional Rail fiasco may have just ended, but SEPTA’s woes are far from over.

The roughly 5,000-member Transport Workers Union Local 234, which represents around half of SEPTA’s workforce, voted unanimously last night to authorize a strike that could continue through Election Day. If a settlement isn’t reached by October 31st, when the union’s current contract expires, the organization could strike immediately afterward.

“Our members have spoken,” TWU president Willie Brown said in a press release. “We’ve been at the bargaining table for months, making positive and progressive proposals to address our members’ needs and move the authority forward, and yet we’ve been stonewalled by SEPTA management and their team of outside lawyers.”

Brown, who heads the union’s negotiating committee, said TWU and SEPTA are negotiating pension and healthcare concerns as well as scheduling that best avoids “fatigue issues that cause safety issues for our operators – and for the passengers they serve.”

SEPTA and TWU will continue to negotiate until the end of the month. If Brown chooses to hold a strike after October 31st, it could inhibit services on the Broad Street and Market-Frankford subway lines as well as on trolleys and buses.

“The parties continue to bargain to reach a new agreement,” SEPTA said in a statement. “While we hope that the union does not exercise its right to strike, we are focusing on reaching a new contract that’s in the best interest of our riders, employees and stakeholders.”

The most recent SEPTA strike affected Regional Rail and lasted just one day in June 2014. Threatening a strike so close to Election Day – or so close to any important date – offers the union leverage in negotiating. SEPTA’s bus and trolley workers threatened to strike just before the World Series in 2009, and while the union ended up waiting until after the games left the city, a weeklong strike ensued. TWU also went on strike for a week in 2005.

Some riders have already voiced their concern and frustration on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/4EVERiKISS/status/787984695606779904

https://twitter.com/jonnysnacks_393/status/787986174354788352

https://twitter.com/BRE_utiful_/status/787942677996183552

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.