SEPTA and its union are are choosing the wrong time to brush bumpers.
Gov. Ed Rendell created a pact between SEPTA’s leadership and its largest union not to strike hours before a second deadline was to expire Saturday, Oct. 31. Rendell’s pact was simple and effective. If either party did not stay at the negotiating table and allowed a strike to occur, Rendell would withhold state funds to the groups in the future. Rendell’s efforts to avoid a strike during the World Series, both as a former Philadelphia mayor and as a Pennsylvanian, should be commended.
The fact that SEPTA and its union, which represents about 5,000 employees, have not settled on a contract after seven months is troubling enough. But that they would use the World Series as a weapon in their disagreements is inexcusable.
Philadelphia doesn’t often get a chance to bask in the national spotlight, and the World Series is one such opportunity. Instead of pulling together to showcase Philadelphia to the country, the union and SEPTA are choosing to bicker and threaten.
The use of the World Series as a ploy to grab headlines in the contract negotiations displays a troubling lack of concern for Philadelphians and their needs. Less than 10,000 fans are expected to use the system for transportation to the World Series, but 800,000 Philadelphians use the system regularly.
The union is failing its obligations to transit users by neglecting the needs of the vast majority of riders for the chance to pressure SEPTA officials with embarrassment during the Series.
SEPTA officials, on the other hand, are failing their duties to transit users by waiting to really take negotiations seriously until a major threat looms. Why does it take the threat of a strike for negotiators to work into the early hours of the morning to settle a contract?
To be fair, there are substantial differences between the union and SEPTA. The union is asking for an 18 percent raise over the next five years, while SEPTA wants to give a 9 percent raise, with no increase the first year.
If increased wages are so important to union members and keeping costs low is so important to SEPTA, then SEPTA and its union should understand the potential damage they do to Philadelphians and the city when they threaten to affect its livelihood so callously.