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10-07-21-septa-station-roger-ge
Credit: Roger Ge

SEPTA’s subways, trolleys, and buses are at risk of shutting down on Nov. 1 if members of Transport Workers Union Local 234 go on strike after not reaching a deal with SEPTA.

The strike would affect all SEPTA lines within Philadelphia city limits. Regional rail lines outside the city, as well as the LUCY bus routes in University City, will continue to operate. 

The Transport Workers Union Local 234 current contract with SEPTA expires Oct. 31 and the union is currently in negotiations with the transport authority, according to 6ABC News. In a newsletter put out by the Transport Workers Union on Oct. 14, the union said that they were frustrated by SEPTA not offering wage increases in their four-year agreement proposal, especially while businesses across the country are raising wages salaries and providing hiring benefits in response to the labor shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“SEPTA’s wage offer is an insult to our intelligence,” Local 234's newsletter reads.

SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said in an interview with Metro that two weeks still provides enough time to make a deal, in to avoid a strike. 

“Those talks will likely intensify coming up this week, and depending on what happens, the week after that as we hope to get to a resolution,” Busch said in the Metro interview. “We’re optimistic.”

Local 234 President Willie Brown told Philly Voice that they are still early in negotiations, and they are trying to establish a deal. 

In 2016, a similar strike occurred after Local 234 failed to reach a contract agreement with SEPTA, causing the entire transit system in the city to shut down.

If the SEPTA system were to shut down due to a strike, transportation issues would arise for many students within the School District of Philadelphia that rely public transportation. Due to the school bus driver shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the School District decided to provide students who normally use bus, van, or cab services with free SEPTA Student Fare Cards. Currently, almost 60,000 Philadelphia students use the SEPTA to go to school, according to Philly Voice. 

Superintendent William Hite sent a letter to school district parents on Tuesday saying that a strike would make in-person learning difficult and that the district is prepared to switch to 100% virtual learning if absolutely necessary.

“While I respect the right of any union member to advocate for themselves, it is my greatest hope that this strike can be avoided so that we can continue to keep our schools open and best support the social, emotional and academic needs of our students without additional disruption,” Hite said in the letter. “We are advocating relentlessly with City leaders for a non-strike resolution to SEPTA negotiations.”

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