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Philadelphia Transit Strike Ends

Philadelphia Transit Strike Ends

STEPHANIE FARR, DAFNEY TALES & ALBERT STUMM | The Philadelphia Daily News via YellowBrix

November 09, 2009

WHEW!

Just when commuters around the region were gearing up for the second week of the six-day transit strike, the Transport Workers Union Local 234 signed a deal that put its workers back on the job.

Gov. Rendell said early this morning at a hastily called news conference at the Bellevue, at Broad and Walnut streets, that the subways, buses and trolleys would be running in time for the “a.m. rush hour.”

Union representatives arrived at the Bellevue shortly after midnight to sign the deal, which Rendell said was very similar to the “handshake agreement” that was reached late Friday night.

That tentative agreement fell through on Saturday after the union raised objections regarding two sticking points.

But, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady insisted, the two sides kept talking through the weekend.

“Negotiations never broke down,” said Brady, a member of the carpenters union who has been working behind the scenes to keep all parties talking since before the strike began.

“People get frustrated . . . From time to time, people get a little frazzled but you stay there and keep them all talking. If you don’t talk. Nothing will get done.”

The two sticking points that emerged over the weekend included access by the union to audit pension fund records and the impact of national health-care reform on SEPTA’s costs.

Rendell said the health-care issue had been resolved. The audit issue was not addressed this morning. A three-year dental plan, which had not been publicly mentioned as an issue, was added to this morning’s deal.

What had appeared to be an acrimonious negotiation turned into a series of back-patting this morning at the Bellevue.

“Even when things broke down, [Local 234 President] Willie Brown did his job,” Rendell said. "It’s the nature of the collective bargaining process. “It’s an inherently adversarial process. And [Brown] was a strong adversary.”

Brown, who said a ratification vote would be held in about 10 days, commended Brady. Brady “came in and was plugging away at it and we finally got together and got an agreement,” he said.

As recently as yesterday afternoon, it appeared that neither side was likely to budge any time soon.“Our position right now is for the union to sign the contract, period,” SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney said. “We’re through negotiating.”


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