Obama Ends Philly Rail Strike
June 17, 2014
President Barack Obama announced the creation of a presidential emergency board June 15 to end four years of stalled contract negotiations with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the IBEW and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.
More than 400 workers engaged in a one-day strike June 14. The strike, SEPTA’s first since 1983, came at the end of a 30-day cooling period kicked off by SEPTA’s decline of the National Mediation Board’s offer of binding arbitration – an offer accepted unconditionally by both unions.
Obama’s action was in response to a request earlier in the day by state Gov. Tom Corbett, made pursuant to the Railway Labor Act.
BLET Vice President Stephen J. Bruno said in a statement:
Responsibility for the shutdown lies squarely with SEPTA and with Governor Corbett. The BLET and IBEW agreed over six weeks ago to binding arbitration on the two issues separating the parties — payment of the full value of the TWU’s pattern contract and payment to our members of the full value of that package during the term of the agreement — but SEPTA rejected that proposal.
The workers have been without a new contract since 2009. SEPTA stonewalled negotiations early on, refusing to offer both unions an agreement similar to the one they reached with the Transit Workers Union Local 234, which represents city subway and bus workers.
IBEW System Council 7 General Chairman Arthur Davidson says he is disappointed by SEPTA’s unwillingness to bargain and to agree to binding arbitration.
“We’ve been reasonable in bargaining with SEPTA throughout this process,” he said. “I’m confident that if we can present our position to a neutral third party, we can end this dispute.”
The IBEW represents 220 electrical workers on the transit system.
“[We] are united in seeking an amicable resolution to our respective contract negotiations,” said a joint statement from both unions. “Our objective remains to reach equitable settlements that address the needs of our members along with our friends and neighbors in the Philadelphia metropolitan area who rely on the SEPTA system.”
The presidential board will hear evidence and recommend a settlement, sending labor and management back to the bargaining table.
System Council 7, IBEW represents 3,330 commuter, passenger and freight railroad electricians throughout the United States.