On Sunday, members of SEPTA's largest labor union voted to authorize a strike if a new contract is not signed by Nov. 1.
Transport Workers Union Local 234 — a labor union that serves about 5,000 SEPTA workers, including bus, train, and trolley operators, mechanics, and others — are currently demanding a four-year contract which would include higher wages, paid parental leave, increased police patrols, and retroactive hazard pay for working during COVID-19, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. If an agreement is not reached with SEPTA officials before the current contract expires at 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 1, workers will go on strike on the morning of Nov. 1.
Lines impacted by the strike include trolley lines, city transit buses, and the Market-Frankford, Broad-Ridge Spur, and Broad Street lines, the Inquirer reported.
SEPTA issued a release on its website advising commuters of the best transit options in the event of a strike. According to the release, LUCY — the SEPTA loop through University City which serves 30th Street Station and other University City locations — will continue to operate, as well as the regional commuter rail, CCT connect, and suburban transit.
In the event of a strike, Penn will partner with Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania Health System, and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to provide free transit services to all employees, University administrators announced in a Wednesday email to faculty members.
During negotiations, transit authority negotiators offered a two-year contract which included COVID-19 payment and a two-year wage increase, or a four-year contract that would base a wage increase on SEPTA's ability to pay, the Inquirer reported. Low ridership due to COVID-19 has caused SEPTA to lose over $1 million a day, and SEPTA officials say they cannot guarantee wage increases beyond the two-year mark.
TWU Local 234’s newsletter previously criticized SEPTA management’s offers for not ensuring wage increases, removing the current no-layoff clause, and decreasing health coverage, among other issues, the Inquirer reported.
A strike would severely impact in-person learning for Philadelphia high school students, and may result in a switch to virtual learning, as nearly 60,000 students are reliant on SEPTA services to attend school.
“We’re going to do everything we can to keep the [SEPTA] system running," TWU Local 234 president Willie Brown told the Inquirer. "But if things break down, we’ll do what we have to do.”