SEPTA strike ends, full service resumes in time for Election Day

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A six-day shutdown of bus and rail services in Philadelphia is finally over, after SEPTA officials and members of its workers’ union reached a tentative deal Monday morning, just a day before Philadelphians head to the polls.

Service resumed in phases Monday, and should be back to normal by Tuesday, the agency announced.

Negotiators for Transit Workers Union (TWU) Local 234 and SEPTA resolved a contract dispute that was punctuated by bitter accusations by both sides. The tentative agreement still needs formal approval from SEPTA’s board and a ratification vote from union members.

“We know that the strike as caused a significant hardship for thousands of our riders,” SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale T. Deon Sr. said in a news release. “We sincerely regret this disruption to transportation throughout the City of Philadelphia and the region.”

Union workers’ contracts expired at 12:01 on Nov. 1. More than 4,700 union workers thenwalked off their jobs, grumblingover issues with pension benefits and time off for drivers in between shifts. The strike froze the city’s subway, trolley and bus routes and created traffic gridlocks and commuting nightmares for the agency’s 576,000 daily riders and the thousands more who drive into Philly daily.

Democratic party leaders worried about the strike’s impact on Election Day, fearing voters wouldn’t be able to access polls because of significant delays on the Regional Rail or in traffic. Winning Pennsylvania is key on the path to the White House; while Philly is predominantly Democratic, significantly low voter turnout in the blue city could swing the state in Donald Trump’s favor.

SEPTA officials sought an injunction Friday, asking a judge to compel striking workers to return to work. The agency argued the walkout endangered public welfare, citing students who were unable to get to school, low-income families who could not get to work, and young children who had to walk across busier-than-usual intersections.

The judge denied SEPTA’s request that same day. The transit service had planned to file another emergency injunction Monday morning ahead of Election Day, if both sides were unable to hash out their differences.

Gov. Tom Wolf said Sunday he intended to file a legal letter in support of SEPTA’s injunction request.

“The strike has been devastating for so many individuals and their families, and has created extreme hardships for the city and for businesses,” the Democratic governor said in a news release. “The time for it to end is now.”

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