Early Monday morning SEPTA’s Transport Workers Union Local 234 decided to go on strike. This move, orchestrated in the dead of the night in what was an unnecessarily dramatic fashion, has the potential to paralyze the city. Though Philadelphia residents do not rely on public transportation as much as New Yorkers do, the impact of losing access to SEPTA’s subways, trolleys and busses could prove to be catastrophic.
As I was walking home from class around 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday evening, I could already see the effects of the strike. The corner of 37th and Market was a mess, and I darted in between motionless vehicles to get across the street. Drivers looked angry, and I certainly don’t blame them.
This strike is detrimental to a number of Philadelphia residents. Bikers are now finding it much more dangerous to share the roads with drivers. According to an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer, many are being forced to ride on the sidewalk — increasing the danger to pedestrians as well.
People who rely on SEPTA to travel to their place of employment are also experiencing hardship. Predictably, this is disproportionately affecting Philadelphia’s significant low-income communities. Many cannot afford to utilize other modes of transportation, like cabs. In communities where many live paycheck to paycheck, this strike has the potential to seriously disrupt their lives.
And then there are students. Many Philadelphia public-school students rely on SEPTA to get to school. Some say that as many as 58,000 students utilize SEPTA to travel to and from their schools. Philadelphia will not be providing alternate transportation for them during the strike. As a result, one school reported an absence rate of 84 percent Wednesday.
If you’re reading this column and thinking that the SEPTA strike will not impact Penn, you’re dead wrong. Though most undergraduates live either on campus or within walking distance of the University, the same cannot be said of graduate students. They will now find it increasingly difficult to get to Penn. Both staff and faculty face similar problems.
In short, this strike is going to impact a lot of people in Philadelphia. And, to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure that the workers’ demands are worth the significant problems this is going to cause for the city.
Like any kind of disagreement between a union and management, this is all about money. Specifically, this strike is about what the union believes is an underfunded pension fund and a potential gap in state funding.
I think that it’s absolutely ridiculous that this union is demanding more money at a time when the City of Philadelphia is facing unprecedented budget shortfalls. Mayor Nutter has had to make difficult funding decisions in order to keep the city solvent. What makes SEPTA employees think that they’re entitled to a bigger piece of the pie when the pie is shrinking?
Add to that the dramatic and childish antics of the union itself. Threatening to go on strike while Philadelphia is hosting a World Series game is low. Actually striking early in the morning and announcing it in the dead of night ensured that workers who depend on SEPTA to commute would not be aware of the situation. And that’s just downright unforgiveable.
The citizens of Philadelphia depend on SEPTA. A well-functioning public transportation system is necessary for any city to run smoothly. This strike is not only bad for the City of Philadelphia, but it’s also bad for Transport Workers Union Local 234. They’ve effectively lost any sympathy that the people of Philadelphia had for them.
The workers of SEPTA need to recognize that their decision to strike is not only selfish, but also destructive. They should get back to the bargaining table and work out a deal as soon as possible.
Dennie Zastrow is a College senior from Wilson, N.Y. He is the chairman of the Lambda Alliance. His e-mail address is email@example.comComments powered by Disqus
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