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Could the Philadelphia Transit Strike Determine Who Becomes the Next President?
On November 1, after months of negotiations between the management of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and the Transport Workers Union Local 234, "more than 4,700 SEPTA workers, including bus, train and trolley operators" went on strike, reports Martine Powers in the "Dr. Gridlock column" for The Washington Post. "SEPTA buses, trolleys and subways provide about 900,000 rides a day."
In addition to health care, pension and wages, TWU lists "non-economic" issues [PDF] such as "operator and public safety" that need to be addressed.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the strike caused major paralysis during the Tuesday morning commute, with roads across the city backed up due to people choosing to use their cars to get to work.
In addition, Regional Rail service, whose workers are not on strike, was at standing room only. No fares were collected, one passenger told the Inquirer reporter.
If strike is not settled by Nov. 8
"If the strike continues through next week, it could have a significant impact on the election: Thousands of Philadelphia residents may have no means to reach their polling place," adds Powers.
And Pennsylvania is a battleground state in the presidential election, which could add to the urgency of finding a solution to the transit shutdown before next week.
Powers writes that "the agency will pursue legal action to force the union to lift the strike for Election Day."
“If we foresee an agreement will not come to pass, SEPTA intends to seek to enjoin the strike for November 8th to ensure that the strike does not prevent any voters from getting to the polls and exercising their right to vote,” the agency said in its statement.
Two years ago, Regional Rail workers went on strike. President Obama intervened at the request of then-Governor Tom Corbett to force members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers back to work for 240 days and enter mediation talks with SEPTA management.
For the latest information, see SEPTA Strike Live Updates in the Philadelphia Inquirer.