Workers in the Philadelphia-area transit system have voted to allow a strike next month if a deal is not reached on a new contract.
Transportation Workers Union Local 234 said a vote at a Sunday morning meeting in south Philadelphia approved a motion allowing union leaders to go on strike if a deal with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority does ‘is not concluded in a week.
“Our members are essential workers who have risked their lives and put their own families at risk during this pandemic,” union president Willie Brown told the Philadelphia Inquirer. He said the union was calling on SEPTA to address “health and safety issues and modest economic improvements.”
The leave vote gives the union more bargaining power by allowing leaders to call a strike quickly without all union members meeting, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The union is calling for more help related to the pandemic, as transit workers have faced increased risks of COVID-19 and belligerent passengers refusing mask warrants.
As recently as last week, a SEPTA employee arrested a man who raped a woman on the train as other passengers watched and recorded the interaction.
The suspect, Fiston Ngoy, 35, allegedly harassed the woman, groped her and ultimately raped her at more than two dozen train stops last week, authorities said. SEPTA officials also said officers responded within three minutes of the only 911 call they received – from a transport worker on leave.
The transport workers union is asking for support in the form of police patrols and paid family leave.
SEPTA said the talks were productive and hoped to avoid disruption by agreeing on a “just and financially responsible” pact. The agency said it was still losing about $ 1 million a day in revenue due to declining ridership with more people working from home during the pandemic, and ridership is not expected to return to levels of February 2020.
“We need to find a way to provide fair wages and benefits to employees, while facing the challenges ahead,” said SEPTA. This is why SEPTA presented two paths to TWU leadership: a shorter-term agreement that includes salary increases, pandemic payment and other benefits, and a longer-term proposal that reflects future uncertainties. “
SEPTA rape case: ‘Angry and disgusted’: Train passengers held up phones, did not call 911 because woman was raped on Philadelphia train, police say
SEPTA strike in 2016: Philadelphia transit strike sends hundreds of thousands rushing to work
If a strike occurs next week, hundreds of thousands of people will be affected. A large majority of public transport trips have a direct economic impact on the local economy, including getting to and from work, according to a 2017 survey of 695,748 passengers by the American Public Transportation Association.
Communities of color account for 60% of the transit system’s ridership, with African Americans making up about a quarter of that population, according to the survey.
In 2016, around 4,700 transit workers went on strike, leaving subways, buses and streetcars at idle speed that made nearly a million trips every day of the week. Commuter train lines stretching deep into the city’s suburbs were not directly affected by the strike, but stranded trains and long delays were reported as commuters excluded from their normal routes packed everything. who moved.
The weeklong strike was resolved on the eve of that year’s general election, with Democratic leaders in the city expressing fears the walkout could weaken turnout and hurt Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Contribution: Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
Michelle Shen is Money & Tech digital reporter for USA TODAY. Follow her on Twitter @ michelle_shen10