Bulletin: The workers went back to work on June 15 by order of the Obama administration.
June 14 — Workers that run 13 of Philadelphia’s regional rail lines are walking picket lines instead, the first such strike in 31 years against the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).
The 220 engineers in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and 210 workers in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 744 walked out this morning after management announced plans to impose terms of a new contract. The two unions have been working under the terms of the old contract as far back as 2009.
More than 125,000 passengers per weekday depend on the trains, which carry riders from Philadelphia to the suburbs, Philadelphia International Airport and parts of New Jersey.
Arthur Davidson, general chairman of IBEW System Council No. 7, stated: “SEPTA’s conduct in refusing to address important issues in excess of four years of negotiations has resulted in SEPTA potentially subjecting the good people of Philadelphia to a stoppage of SEPTA rail service. … We are so confident in our position that we are willing to submit our dispute to binding arbitration, which would resolve this matter and avert a strike. Unfortunately, SEPTA has refused to act reasonably and agree to binding arbitration.” (www.ble-t.org/pr/news/newsflash)
A 1983 strike lasted for 108 days, but this walkout is expected to end in a day or two. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has sent a request to President Obama to appoint a presidential emergency board to mediate the labor dispute and compel the striking engineers and electrical workers to return to work for 240 days.
“We won’t act until we see the executive order,” said Stephen Bruno, vice president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. “Then we’ll get everybody back to work expeditiously.” (www.philly.com)
Transit Workers Union Local 234, which represents about half of SEPTA’s 10,000 employees, says they will not join the strike for now. The contracts for bus drivers, subway operators, mechanics, and cashiers in Local 234 expired earlier this year but a strike-authorization vote has not been taken yet.
A strike by TWU members at the same time as the rail workers would halt SEPTA’s entire system, which has never occurred in SEPTA’s 50-year history.