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SEPTA, or the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, has voted to authorize a strike which could take effect at the end of this year or beginning of 2015. The bus drivers, trolley and subway operators have voted unanimously for the strike inside the Columbus Boulevard meeting hall where over one hundred SEPTA union workers attended.
SEPTA serves around 3.9 million people in the city and county of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, as well as the suburban counties of Delaware, Bucks, Chester and Montgomery.
Willie Brown, the president of Transport Workers Union Local 234, said:
There wasn’t a nay in the room. Members don’t want to strike, but they are willing to fight for what we need. If we are still as far apart as we are now, we will have no choice but to strike, but we will see if we can get a little closer.
The vote that happened on Sunday did authorize the strike, but did not set any dates or schedule for when or if SEPTA union workers stop working. Brown assured the people of Philadelphia that SEPTA was not going to commence the strike this week and that the union would meet again to reevaluate the situation at the end of the current week.
Jerri Williams, SEPTA spokesperson, said the vote for strike was no surprise. She also revealed that the management remained dedicated to try and avoid service disruption. Williams said:
We’ve had several meetings last week and the week before, and we hope to be able to continue discussing the issues and to be able to come to an agreement.
Negotiations are set to resume of Tuesday after being stuck for more than six months. TWU Local 234 is the largest of SEPTA’s unions (SEPTA has a total of 17 unions). TWU Local 234 represent about 5,000 drivers, mechanics, cashiers, operators and other workers.
One of the main reasons for strike is the fact that SEPTA union workers have been working without a contract ever since the five-year pacts expired in March and April. If an agreement is reached for TWU Local 234 then it sets the patter for the rest of SEPTA’s 16 labor contracts.
The last TWU Local 234 strike happened in 2009, seven months after the workers’ contracts expired. New SEPTA bus drivers earn $33,887 per year and bus drivers with four or more years of experience earn $55,620 a year.