The mass transit system in Philadelphia is rolling again!
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, SEPTA and Transit Workers Union Local 234 came to a tentative contract agreement early this morning, ending the week-long strike that shut down Philadelphia city buses, trolleys and the Broad Street and Market/Frankford Subway lines.
Union and SEPTA officials announced the deal at 12:45 a.m. this morning at a news conference outside the Center City office of Governor Ed Rendell, the Inquirer reported. The first buses began rolling again around 4 a.m.
According to the Inquirer:
The five-year contract also calls for a 2.5 percent raise in the second year, and a 3 percent raise in each of the final three years. It increases workers’ contributions to the pension fund from the current 2 percent to 3 percent, and increases the maximum pension to $30,000 a year from the current $27,000 a year.
The deal will reportedly be formally voted on by union members within the next two weeks.
The Transit Workers Union Local 234, which works for SEPTA, the Philadelphia area’s mass transit system, went on strike on Tuesday. Today, they rejected another offer, with Union president Willie Brown refusing to put that offer to a vote by all union members.
The strike has shut down all buses, street trolleys and the Broad Street and Market-Frankford subways. This has caused major traffic jams in Center City and overwhelming crowds on SEPTA’s commuter rail lines, which now are carrying commuters to parts of the city normally served by subways, buses and trolleys.
According to Philly.com, Brown said the union’s constitution doesn’t allow its entire membership to vote on a contract that has first been rejected by leadership. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who has been trying to broker a settlement, said the local’s membership must take a vote on the offer by Sunday or he’ll withdraw nearly $7 million in state funds offered to pay bonuses.
“We’re not going to take it to a vote,” Brown told reporters this afternoon. “For the same reason the president of the United States would not bypass Congress and go directly to the people.” He dismissed Rendell’s demand as an effort to divide the union.
Rendell said he will no longer serve as an intermediary in this dispute. “I have a state to run,” he said.
Unions have played a very important role in the history of this country and they still do serve some very noble purposes. But they sometimes don’t know when enough is enough. And it’s hard for government officials, let alone the general public, to have sympathy for them when we’re in the middle of the worst economic downturn in 80 years. The vast majority of Americans would love to have the benefits and job security the TWU claims is no longer sufficient. I certainly wish I did.