Contact Us
Make My Homepage

PA Governor Asks US Help on Philly Transit Strike

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Gov. Tom Corbett asked President Barack Obama on Saturday to intervene in a commuter rail strike in the nation’s sixth-largest metropolitan area and force union workers to return to their jobs.

The Republican governor said he wants Obama to appoint an emergency board to mediate the contract dispute between the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and its engineers and electricians unions. Four hundred workers went on strike at midnight.

Officials stand near an idle Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority train, Monday, June 9, 2014, in the East Falls section of Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

“The people of Philadelphia and the surrounding region expect and deserve a safe and efficient rail system to get them to work, medical appointments, school, and recreation,” Corbett said in a statement. “I call on both parties to work together, find common ground and place the riders at the forefront of mind in their discussions.”

If the president grants the request, workers must return to work immediately and both parties must continue negotiations, Corbett said.

The unions scheduled a news conference for Saturday afternoon and declined to comment before then.

The move shut down 13 train lines that carry commuters from Philadelphia to the suburbs, Philadelphia International Airport and New Jersey. SEPTA subways, trolleys and buses continue to run.

“My head’s going to hurt by the end of this day,” said volunteer Rusty Schwendeman of the Traveler’s Aid Society, who had helped reroute about two dozen rail travelers Saturday morning at 30th Street Station.

They often involved several connections, longer routes or a significantly higher fare on Amtrak.

Carolyn Tola, of Hamilton Square, New Jersey, and three friends paid $40 apiece to take Amtrak from central New Jersey to Philadelphia to see the Pennsylvania Ballet instead of $9 on Septa.

“We’re here,” Tola said, noting that the ballet tickets were nonrefundable. “We’re going to relax and enjoy it.”

The strike began after negotiations between the transit agency and two unions failed to reach a new contract deal Friday. No further talks were scheduled.

The last regional rail strike, in 1983, lasted more than three months.

“I hope it doesn’t go that far. I don’t anticipate that it would, but I don’t know how long it will take us to try to find a common ground – if there is any,” said Stephen Bruno, vice president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

Striking workers are seeking raises of at least 14.5 percent over five years – or about 3 percentage points more than SEPTA has offered, he said.

The labor conflict came to a head this week after SEPTA announced it would impose a deal beginning Sunday. Terms include raising electrical workers’ pay immediately by an average of about $3 per hour; the top wage rate for locomotive engineers would rise by $2.64 per hour.

SEPTA said the union rejected a two-week cooling-off period. Bruno noted that the union has been working without a contract for four years.

The strike adds to the commuting headaches in the region, where major construction projects are making it more difficult than usual to get around.

Drexel University dance team members Beverly and Angela Tomita, 18-year-old twins, had planned to take the airport line for a 2 p.m. flight home to Laguna Beach, California, for the summer.

“That’s so not convenient!” Angela Tomita said when she found the region rail entrance closed at 30th Street Station. Schwendeman soon directed them to a subway-and-bus route.

“They’re not the best answers, but they’re the best answers I can come up with,” Schwendeman told another teenager about her three-bus route home to suburban Blue Bell. “I don’t want to send anybody to the middle of nowhere, either.”

 

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Leave a Comment

It appears that you already have an account created within our VIP network of sites on . To keep your points and personal information safe, we need to verify that it's really you. To activate your account, please confirm your password. When you have confirmed your password, you will be able to log in through Facebook on both sites.

Forgot your password?

*Please note that your points, prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

It appears that you already have an account on this site associated with . To connect your existing account with your Facebook account, just click on the account activation button below. You will maintain your existing profile and VIP program points. After you do this, you will be able to always log in to http://nj1015.com using your Facebook account.

*Please note that your points, prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

Please fill out the information below to help us provide you a better experience.

Register on New Jersey 101.5 quickly by logging in with your Facebook account. It's just as secure, and no password to remember!

Not a Member? Sign Up Here

Register on New Jersey 101.5 quickly by logging in with your Facebook account. It's just as secure, and no password to remember!