Workers for the transit system in the Philadelphia area have voted to approve a strike next month if no agreement is reached on a new contract.
That Transport Workers’ Association Room 234 said a vote at a Sunday morning meeting in southern Philadelphia approved a proposal to allow union leaders to call a strike if an agreement with Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority not reached in a week.
“Our members are essential workers who have risked their lives and endangered their own families during this pandemic,” said union president Willie Brown. Philadelphia Inquirer. He said the union asked SEPTA to address “health and safety issues and modest economic improvements.”
The union is demanding more pandemic-related assistance, as transit workers have had to deal with increased COVID-19 risks and warring passengers are refusing mask mandates.
Just last week, a SEPTA employee stopped a man who raped a woman on the train while other passengers watched and recorded the interaction.
The suspect, Fiston Ngoy, 35, allegedly harassed the woman, groped her and eventually raped her through more than two dozen train stops last week, authorities said. SEPTA authorities also said officers responded within three minutes of the only 911 call they received — from an off-duty transport employee.
The Transport Workers’ Association demands support in the form of police patrols and paid family leave.
SEPTA said that the negotiations have been productive and that they hope to avoid interruptions with agreement on a “fair and financially responsible” pact. The agency said it is still losing about $ 1 million a day in revenue due to declining equestrian numbers with more people working at home during the pandemic, and equestrianism is not expected to return to February 2020 levels.
“We need to find a way to deliver reasonable wages and benefits to employees while facing the challenges that lie ahead,” SEPTA said. “Therefore, SEPTA has presented two paths for TWU management: a shorter agreement that provides wage increases, a pandemic payment and other benefits, and a long-term proposal that reflects future uncertainty.”
SEPTA strike in 2016: Philadelphia transit strike sends hundreds of thousands to cross after rides at work
If there is a strike next week, hundreds of thousands of people will be affected. The vast majority of public transport travel has a direct economic impact on the local economy, including getting to or from work, according to a 2017 survey of 695,748 riders of the American Public Transportation Association.
Colored communities make up 60% of the transit system’s equestrian ship, of which African Americans make up about a quarter of that population, the study says.
Back in 2016, about 4,700 urban transit workers were on strikeleaving idle subways, buses and carriages that delivered nearly 1 million rides every weekday. Commuter train lines stretching deep into the city’s suburbs were not directly affected by the strike, but jammed trains and long delays were reported as commuters locked out of their normal routes packed everything that moved.
The week-long strike was resolved the day before the general election that year with Democratic city leaders expressing fears that the walkout could weaken turnout and hurt Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Contributing: Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY; Associated Press
Michelle Shen is the Money & Tech Digital Reporter for USA TODAY. Follow her on Twitter @ michelle_shen10
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