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A SEPTA Route 40 bus travels eastward on Spruce Street on Oct. 7. Credit: Roger Ge

After reaching a tentative agreement on a new contract days before the previous contract was set to expire, members of SEPTA’s largest union will not go on strike.

Transport Workers Union Local 234 serves approximately 5,000 SEPTA workers, representing bus, train, and trolley operators, mechanics, and other staff. The union previously asked for a four-year contract with wage increases, retroactive pandemic hazard pay, and increased survivor benefits to families of the frontline workers who died of COVID-19, among other demands. Union members noted that while the New York MTA is offering a $500,000 family survivor benefit, families in Philadelphia have received nothing.

Under the proposed two-year contract, union workers will receive 3% raises for each year of the contract, pandemic hazard pay bonuses, and parental leave provisions, as well as Juneteenth as a paid holiday. 

Not all of the union’s demands were met in the tentative agreement that prevented a November strike. With ridership still at 47% of pre-pandemic levels and continued daily losses of $1 million, SEPTA said the agency could not afford guaranteed pay hikes more than two years out. SEPTA will not provide increased survivor benefits to families of the 11 SEPTA frontline workers who died of COVID-19, and SEPTA security issues were left unaddressed, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

 All transit services will continue operating on regular schedules. Union members and the SEPTA Board will vote to ratify the contract on Nov. 5.

“I am very pleased that we were able to come to terms without a strike,” union president Willie Brown told the Inquirer. “Our members are essential workers who move Philadelphia and who have risked their lives putting their own families at risk during this pandemic.”