Philly’s weeklong transit strike over with tentative deal
PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia’s weeklong transit strike is over.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and the union representing about 4,700 transit workers announced a tentative agreement early Monday.
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Board Chairman Pasquale Deon said it is a fair deal that provides “wage increases, pension improvements, and maintains health care coverage levels while addressing rising costs.”
The five-year deal is still subject to ratification by union members and must be approved by the SEPTA board.
Officials said subway service would likely be the first to return and that some bus service could be available in time for Monday’s evening rush, but that it usually takes 24 hours for full service to return.
The workers with SEPTA walked out after midnight on Tuesday over issues including pension benefits and the amount of time off given to drivers between shifts.
The result has been traffic gridlock at morning and evening rush hours; jammed and delayed regional rail service and higher absenteeism at the city’s high schools. The troubles continued Monday morning despite the new deal, as commuters faced crowded roads and up to 30-minute delays on all regional rails due to signal problems.
“We know that the strike has caused a significant hardship for thousands of our riders,” Deon said. “We sincerely regret this disruption to transportation throughout the City of Philadelphia and the region. We thank riders for their patience under these extremely challenging circumstances.”
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney thanked the union and agency for reaching a settlement and cited the efforts of his staff, the governor, State Rep. Dwight Evans and Congressman Bob Brady during the difficult negotiations.
“I am thankful that the Transport Workers Union and SEPTA have reached a settlement, and I am very grateful to residents and commuters for their patience over the last six days,” Kenney said.
Some officials were concerned that the strike could dampen voter turnout if it continued through Election Day. But Transport Workers Union local president Willie Brown said he was more concerned with getting an agreement.
“It really wasn’t a factor with me,” Williams said about the impending Election Day. “We were trying to get a contract, and that’s what we did.”
The city of Philadelphia had filed a motion in state court seeking an injunction to temporarily halt the strike for Election Day so residents can get to the polls to vote. The court had been expected to hear the city’s motion Monday.
Democratic city leaders had worried that if the strike continued through Election Day, some voters wouldn’t have been able to get to the polls because they will be spending so much time getting to and from work.
Pennsylvania is a battleground state, and the vote in overwhelmingly Democratic Philadelphia is critically important to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as she battles Republican Donald Trump.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Sunday said he intended to file a legal document in support of an injunction request filed by SEPTA. The transit agency argues the walkout endangers public health and safety as well as the right of residents to vote in Tuesday’s general election. The union has accused SEPTA of relying on the courts to end the strike rather than bargaining.
“The strike has been devastating for so many individuals and their families and has created extreme hardships for the city and for businesses,” Gov. Wolf said in a statement. “The time for it to end is now.”
The walkout is the ninth since 1975 by the city transit union. The last one, in 2009, lasted six days, but some have lasted for weeks.
SEPTA provides rides for nearly 60,000 public, private and charter school students.