This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Hopefully, SEPTA and the Transport Workers Union Local 234 will be able to “play ball” and resolve their pending contract negotiations. I give credit to the transit union for leveraging the Phillies and Yankees World Series while it was in town.
Governor Rendell used his political clout and urged the transit union to drop the threat of a strike, while also threatening SEPTA with loss of state support if both sides didn’t continue to negotiate for a fair contract. Rendell said a strike while national attention is focused on Philly for the World Series games would be "a little bit of black eye" for the city but produce no real gains for the union since the series shifts back to New York City this week.
I don’t agree with the governor. It seems the threat of strike during the World Series was enough to get both parties to the negotiation table.But now with the World Series back in New York, SEPTA and the union stopped “playing ball.”
Hopefully the transit strike will not last long . Like many of my students, I rely heavily on SEPTA – I don’t own a car. But if the World Series was the impetus required for SEPTA and the transit workers to finally hammer a deal, that’s a good thing.
I just am wondering how the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Union (PFT) could leverage the World Series to get some traction with their pending negotiations with School District of Philadelphia. Because this is not a congressional, mayoral, or presidential election season, the PFT has very little leverage to bring the District to a resolution on contract issues such as teachers’ salary, benefits, and working conditions.
The teachers’ contract, which originally expired on August 31, has been extended to November 30.
Where is Congressman Bob Brady when we need him?
Brady has often been the mediator in these types of contract stalemates. According to Inquirer reporter Paul Nussbaum, last week Brady said, “it’s too soon for him to get involved” with transit talks. “As long as they are talking, it’s fine,” he said. The transit union contract with SEPTA expired on March 15; it appears they had been talking for a considerable time.
I appreciate when Brady is able to get opposing sides in contract negotiations, to lock themselves in a hotel suite, and settle contract disputes.
It appears that Rendell, Nutter, and Brady will need to continue to constructively weigh in on the contract talks. Just as SEPTA and the transit union were able to avoid the bad press of a strike during the World Series, they need to find a way resolve their dispute for benefit of the region’s daily commuters.
Win or lose: Whether the Phillies have their parade down Broad Street or not, Governor Rendell should maintain the pressure to help broker a deal.
Once SEPTA’s deal is done. Brady should not waste time getting the School District and PFT to lock themselves up in a hotel suite and hammer out a deal. Teachers deserve a fair contract and we should not have to wait for another World Series to get one.