Philadelphia Transit WorkersTransit workers in Philadelphia have gone on strike after failing to reach a deal with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), raising concerns that voters’ movement could be impacted on Election Day.

A union, which represents around 4,700 workers, called out its members on a strike early Tuesday. It accused the SEPTA of not yielding to demands it had been making for several month, even when such were unlikely to cost it any money.

Union members will not be reporting for regular duty on Tuesday, but for picket duty, according to TWU Local 234 President Willie Brown.

“Despite months of constructive and innovative proposals from our side of the table, management has refused to budge on key issues including safety issues that would save lives and not cost SEPTA a dime,” Brown said.

The union president revealed that the transit workers had voted to go on strike after the midnight of October 31 if no new contract agreement was reached.

“There is no new agreement, so we are on strike,” he added.

The strike will shut down bus, trolley and subway transportation, which provides roughly 900,000 rides on an average day. But it will not impact services of commuter rail lines outside the confine of the city.

The SEPTA provides transportation for about 60,000 students in public, private and charter schools, which are to remain open even as the strike goes on.

Schools, businesses and hospitals have been making alternative plans since last week in preparation for a likely transit shutdown.

The two sides have not been able to reach an agreement on matters related to pension and health care of workers, according to union officials. The workers are also looking to iron out issues such as schedules, driver fatigue and break time.

In a statement released after the commencement of the strike, SEPTA expressed its willingness and readiness to continue with the contract talks if the workers’ union was ready.

SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch told NBC 10 that, by leaving the bargaining table, Brown “walked away from a contract offer that would have provided his members pay raises, enhanced pension benefits, maintained health care coverage levels and continued job security, while also remaining fair and affordable for the taxpayers and riders who fund SEPTA,”

City officials are worried that the strike could make things hard for potential voters who would want to use public transport for commuting to and from work on Nov. 8 while also creating time to vote in the process.

Following the announcement of the strike, Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, urged the two sides to continue their discussions toward reaching a deal. In a statement, he said the “inability of TWU and SEPTA to reach an agreement is devastating” for hundreds of thousands residents of the state who rely on SEPTA for movement to and from work every day.

Meanwhile, SEPTA has stated that it could reach a tentative agreement with the transit workers’ union so that their strike does not hinder intending voters from casting their ballots on the Election Day.

The union approved a two-year contract in 2014, preventing a threatened walkout, according to the Associated Press. SEPTA workers had embarked on a six-day strike in 2009.

November 23rd, 2016

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