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16036Philadelphia - talks continue to avert SEPTA strike

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  • Edward Havens
    Apr 2, 2014
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      Three labor contracts now have expired between Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority [SEPTA] and unions including its largest labor union, Transport Workers Union Local 234. Bargaining with Local 234 will resume Thursday in hopes of averting a strike that would cripple the City Transit Division's rapid transit, streetcars, trackless trolleys and buses, WPVI television reports:
      <http://tinyurl.com/oyksulx>
      "Contract talks continue to prevent SEPTA strike
      Tuesday, April 01, 2014
        Action News

      PHILADELPHIA - April 1, 2014 (WPVI) -- As of Tuesday, three of SEPTA's union contracts have expired. By next Monday, it could be all four, setting up the possibility of a strike.

      The strike, would impact Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs. The thought of it makes passengers very nervous.

      "It's gonna be hard. If you don't have your own transportation, as far as a car is concerned, it's gonna be very hard," said Theresa Mitchell, North Philadelphia.

      SEPTA and Transit Worker Union local 234, which represents the bulk of the mechanics and operators, have been talking. They had a session Monday and another is scheduled for Thursday.

      However they remain far apart on two major issues - pensions and health care.

      About a 500,000 riders are hoping they bridge the gap soon.

      "I won't be able to get to work. I'm all the way in Northeast Philly," said Justin Henwood, Northeast Philadelphia.

      City division workers have been without a contract for two weeks.

      The victory division contract and the suburban maintenance workers contracts expire Tuesday while the frontier division contract expires Sunday.

      If the two unions involved support each other, 5,500 workers in the city and the suburbs could walk off the job together as early as Monday.

      However there's a wild card. Pennsylvania House Bill 2109 is working its way through the legislature.

      It would outlaw strikes by SEPTA workers. The bill's main sponsor says it could be fast tracked into law within a couple of weeks.

      In the meantime, commuters are sweating it out.

      "I depend on SEPTA every day. If we don't have SEPTA, how am I supposed to get to work? I don't have a car, I can't afford a car," said Camerra Williams, Delaware County.

      Many riders sympathize with the SEPTA workers, but say they've also got bills to pay.

      "We rely on them for transportation to get to work so it's hurting us. They're at work and we're trying to get to work," said Paris Jones, Cheltenham Township.

      SEPTA is preparing strike contingency plans but is still hoping it doesn't have to come to that.

      TWU local 234 also says it's willing to bargain to the end, but it's also ready to strike if necessary.

      As for UTU local 1594, they says its members will work day to day as long as SEPTA engages in good faith bargaining.

      [end text]

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      Edward B. Havens

      Tucson, Ariz.