SEPTA strike threatens to extend into Election Day

SEPTA strike threatens to extend into Election Day
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Six days into a strike by SEPTA’s union workers, neither side appears close to compromise as Election Day looms.

The transit agency plans to file an emergency injunction Monday at a state court hearing, and is expected to argue that a continuation of the strike that shut down bus and rail transportation in the city could hamper many voters from accessing the polls.

SEPTA sought aninjunction last week, asking a judge to force Transit Workers Union (TWU) Local 234 members back to work immediately, calling the strike a “clearand present danger to the health, safety and welfare of our riders and the citizens of Philadelphia and the region.”

The judgedenied SEPTA’s requestFriday.

SEPTA spokeswoman Carla Showell-Lee said after the judge’s decision that the agency “looks forward to the opportunity to resume testimony in court on Monday.”

TWU Local 234President Willie Brown blasted SEPTA’s negotiations tactics in a statement released Saturday night.

“We can’t get anywhere at the bargaining table because SEPTA has pinned their hopes on getting an injunction to end the strike,” he complained. “SEPTA Board Chairman Pat Deon’s plan all along has been to rely on the courts rather than negotiations. He is the one using the election as leverage. This is not the way to end a strike or get an agreement. It’s foolhardy to launch a legal Hail Mary pass designed to make SEPTA’s high-priced lawyers richer and circumvent the collective bargaining process.”

There are more than 1,600 polling locations in Philly, butvoters fear delaysin their commutes will delay them from accessing voting booths until late in the evening.

Pennsylvania is a battleground state and Philadelphia, mostly home to Democratic voters, is a crucial to Hillary Clinton bid to carry the state.

Brown said worker pensions continue to be a major issue in the contract dispute.

“We have nearly 5,000 workers in our union, SEPTA employs roughly 1,700 managers, yet they put more money into the management plan than frontline workers get,” he said. “On top of that last year SEPTA secretly gave each management retiree a $6,000 annual increase in their pension checks. Managers have both a defined benefit pension and a generous match to a 401k plan.”