A union representing about 4,700 transit workers in Philadelphia went on strike early Tuesday after failing to reach a contract agreement with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.
The strike, which will shut dow bus, trolley and subway transportation, provides about 900,000 rides a day. City officials fear the strike will carry over to Election Day, causing concerns for potential voters who plan to use public transport on Nov. 8 to travel to and from work, while finding time to vote in the process.
"Our membership voted to go on strike if we did not reach a new agreement by midnight on October 31," union president Willie Brown said, NBC 10 reported. "Despite months of constructive and innovative proposals from our side of the table, management has refused to budge on key issues including safety issues that would save lives and not cost SEPTA a dime. There is no new agreement, so we are on strike."
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) provides transportation for around 60,000 public, private and charter school students. As of late Monday night, schools — along with business and hospitals — set aside contingency plans in preparation for a strike.
Schools are expected to remain open despite the strike.
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"SEPTA negotiators stand ready and willing to continue bargaining, and the Authority urges Mr. Brown and TWU leadership to return to the bargaining table to negotiate an agreement that will end a severely disruptive work stoppage," said SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch, according to NBC 10. "In doing so, Mr. Brown walked away from a contract offer that would have provided his members pay raises, enhanced pension benefits, maintained health care coverage levels and continued job security, while also remaining fair and affordable for the taxpayers and riders who fund SEPTA."
After the announcement, a spokesman for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf issued a statement urging both sides to reach a resolution.
"Hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania residents rely on SEPTA to travel each day to and from work and school," the spokesperson said, FOX 29 reported. "The inability of TWU and SEPTA to reach an agreement is devastating for many of these individuals and their families.
"This will create extreme hardships for the city and for businesses," the statement added, according to FOX 29.
Back in 2014, union members ratified a two-year deal that prevented a threatened walkout. In 2009, SEPTA workers went on strike for six days.
Contributing: Associated Press