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16043Philadelphia - both sides optimistic about avoiding SEPTA strike

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  • Edward Havens
    Apr 4, 2014
      Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority [SEPTA] and its largest labor union, Transport Workers Union Local 234, both are optimistic about avoiding a strike that would cripple the Delaware Valley's regional transit agency, WPVI television reported Friday morning. A work stoppage would make it more difficult for Phillies Major League Baseball [MLB] fans to attend Monday's home opener at the South Philadelphia stadium:
      "SEPTA, union 'optimistic'; contract talks to resume Friday morning
      (Friday, April 4, 2014)
      Updated at 08:59 AM today

      PHILADELPHIA - April 4, 2014 (WPVI) -- Talks are set to continue Friday morning between SEPTA and union officials, as both sides continue to express optimism that a strike will be averted.

      The next face-to-face meeting between the two sides is set for 11:00 a.m. Friday.

      The executive board of Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 234 met Thursday night to discuss logistics for a possible strike Monday if a deal with SEPTA can't get done.

      Union president Willie Brown emerged from secretive talks around 8:30 p.m., saying a deal is imminent.

      "We are close. We are pretty much agreeing on a two year contract. We'll meet again tomorrow, and there's no reason this can't get done," said Brown.

      Brown says the union will keep its pensions. Issues still remaining to be worked out are wages and health care.

      Brown stopped short of calling them sticking points.

      "I think we both agreed to take some things off the table, and we are very close," he said.

      In its 49-year history, SEPTA has had at least 12 strikes. Some have been long and bitter.

      In 1995, frustrated SEPTA workers tied up traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway with a slow-moving, rolling roadblock.

      That strike lasted 14 days. The record is a 108-day rail strike in 1983.

      If SEPTA's unions strike, the following will STOP running:

      - Buses
      - Broad Street Line
      - Market Frankford Line
      - Norristown High Speed Line
      - Trolleys

      The Regional Rail lines and the LUCY bus will continue to operate.

      And if a strike does happen, come Monday morning hundreds of thousands of commuters are going to have to find new ways of getting to work and school.

      City officials aren't yet making any public comments on strike contingency plans. But throughout the city, people who usually depend on SEPTA are examining their options, should there be a strike.

      Getting to school could be even more challenging for the 60,000 Philadelphia public school students who depend on SEPTA.

      Philadelphia School District spokesman Fernando Gallard tells us, "What we can do is ask parents and ask staffers to work together and find ways to get themselves to the school in hope that it doesn't last long."

      Students who can't make it to school will be marked 'absent but excused.' And teachers are preparing both hardcopies and online work packets for them to complete at home.

      At the University of Pennsylvania, an estimated 3,000 students and staff depend on SEPTA - and that doesn't count workers and patients at nearby CHOP and Drexel University.

      The three institutions are working together.

      Brian Shaw of the University of Pennsylvania explains, "We'll make use of our Penn transit services to interface with some SEPTA stations people can still get to on the Regional Rail trains, if that's going to be the case."

      Temple University Hospital will be running shuttle buses up and down Broad Street to help hospital staff with identification get to work. Staffers are also being encouraged to arrange carpools, and they'll be offered discounted parking.

      Finally, if a strike is called over the weekend, some fans will have a tough time getting to the Phillies home opener, set for Monday.

      Phillies front office staff members say they're monitoring the potential strike situation. But aside from possibly offering parking discounts, there's not much they can do to help fans get to the game.

      [end text]


      Edward B. Havens

      Tucson, Ariz.