SEPTA’s union workers might reject contract that ended six-day strike

Charles Mostoller

Members of the Transportation Workers Union (TWU) Local 234 will vote Friday to approve the contract that ended a six-day strike that stopped transit services in the city earlier this month, but union officials said it may not earn enough support for ratification.

Union President Willie Brown assured commuters Thursday that if the contract between Local 234 members and SEPTA isn’t approved, another work stoppage wouldn’t be immediate. Brown told thePhiladelphia Inquirer that instead, the union and SEPTA officials would return to negotiations to hammer out a deal.

In a letter posted to TWU 234’s website Thursday, Brown urged the union’s 4,700 members to approve the contract.

“As the person who negotiated the contract – and experienced first-hand the difficulties we faced —I know the agreement is a step in the right direction. The three best public employee contracts in Philadelphia are police, fire and transport workers. Police and fire have binding arbitration, we don’t. In order to keep pace, we have to use the strike weapon, which produced good results this time around. If you saw SEPTA’s offer prior to the strike, you would have tossed it in the trash can.”

He warned against members who seek to encourage “no” votes through “misleading statements and bullying tactics.” Brown told the Inky such opposition stems from internal power struggles among some factions that ran a campaign against his leadership in the union’s September elections.

“[These tactics]do nothing but get our members fighting with one another at a time when unity is critical to our survival,” Brown continued. “Just think. Starting on January 20, 2017, Local 234 and other unions will be confronted by a U.S. President who is determined to destroy the labor movement and a Republican Congress ready to back him up.”

Trolley, bus and train workers in the city walked off their jobs at midnight Nov. 1 when their contracts with the transit authority expired. Both sides failed to reach a deal — clashing over pension plans and wage increases. A deal was struck early Nov. 7, after a judge denied SEPTA’s attempt to file an injunction.

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