Valdosta Daily Times

National, International News

June 15, 2014

Obama order forces Philly rail workers back on job

PHILADELPHIA — President Barack Obama on Saturday forced union workers in Philadelphia’s commuter rail strike to return to the job, granting Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s request to create a presidential emergency board to mediate the contract dispute.

Obama ordered the establishment of the three-member board effective at 12:01 a.m. Sunday. He called for “a swift and smooth resolution” of the dispute between the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and its engineers and electricians unions.

Workers will have to return to the job when the board goes into effect after midnight, however SEPTA said rail service wouldn’t be up and running until around 6 a.m. Sunday. They don’t have to resume direct talks with each other, but they do have to participate with the board’s process, which typically involves written submissions and hearings.  

Obama is giving the board 30 days to deliver a report recommending how the dispute should be resolved.

More than 400 workers went on strike at midnight Saturday.

“As long as these workers show up for their regularly scheduled Sunday shifts, Regional Rail service will restored to full Sunday operations in the morning, starting with the first scheduled service trains runs on all of our 13 commuter rail lines,” said  SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams.  First trains on Sundays start running at around 6 a.m., she said.

Stephen Bruno, vice president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, said his union’s members will comply with the order and be back on duty at 12:01 a.m.

The move shut down train lines that carry commuters from Philadelphia to the suburbs, Philadelphia International Airport and New Jersey. The agency’s subways, trolleys and buses continued to run.

Terry Gallagher, president and local chairman of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said the presidential intervention was “what we were waiting for.”

“We have been five years without an agreement, trying to get to this point and we’re happy we’re here now,” he said. Gallagher said employees will be notified to report to their next scheduled shifts.

“The people of Philadelphia and the surrounding region expect and deserve a safe and efficient rail system to get them to work, medical appointments, school and recreation,” Corbett, a Republican, said in a statement. “I call on both parties to work together, find common ground and place the riders at the forefront of mind in their discussions.”

The unions said the strike was designed to force SEPTA to agree to their demands or accept binding arbitration. Workers are seeking raises of at least 14.5 percent over five years — or about 3 percentage points more than SEPTA has offered.

“My head’s going to hurt by the end of this day,” said volunteer Rusty Schwendeman of the Traveler’s Aid Society, who had helped reroute about two dozen rail travelers Saturday morning at 30th Street Station.

They often involved several connections, longer routes or a significantly higher fare on Amtrak.

Carolyn Tola, of Hamilton Square, New Jersey, and three friends paid $40 apiece to take Amtrak from central New Jersey to Philadelphia to see the Pennsylvania Ballet instead of $9 on Septa.

“We’re here,” Tola said, noting that the ballet tickets were nonrefundable. “We’re going to relax and enjoy it.”

The strike began after negotiations between the transit agency and two unions failed to reach a new contract deal Friday. The last regional rail strike, in 1983, lasted more than three months.

The labor conflict came to a head this week after SEPTA announced it would impose a deal beginning Sunday. Terms include raising electrical workers’ pay immediately by an average of about $3 per hour; the top wage rate for locomotive engineers would rise by $2.64 per hour.

The strike added to the commuting headaches in the region, where major construction projects are making it more difficult than usual to get around.

Drexel University dance team members Beverly and Angela Tomita, 18-year-old twins, had planned to take the airport line for a 2 p.m. flight home to Laguna Beach, California, for the summer.

“That’s so not convenient!” Angela Tomita said when she found the region rail entrance closed at 30th Street Station. Schwendeman soon directed them to a subway-and-bus route.

“They’re not the best answers, but they’re the best answers I can come up with,” Schwendeman told another teenager about her three-bus route home to suburban Blue Bell. “I don’t want to send anybody to the middle of nowhere, either.”

 

1
Text Only
National, International News
  • Dollar Tree-Family Do_Rich copy.jpg Dollar Tree buys Family Dollar

    The fight for penny pinchers is intensifying.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Mideast Israe_Rich copy.jpg Gaza war rages despite Hamas, Israel truce pledges

    Israel and Hamas launched new attacks Sunday in the raging Gaza war, despite going back and forth over proposals for a temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting ahead of a major Muslim holiday.
    The failure to reach even a brief humanitarian lull in the fighting illustrated the difficulties in securing a more permanent truce as the sides remain far apart on their terms.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP81072904918 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP4507280123 copy.jpg Today in History for Monday, July 28, 2014
    Today is Monday, July 28, the 209th day of 2014. There are 156 days left in the year. 
     

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tentative deal reached on VA reform

    The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to fix a veterans’ health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

    July 27, 2014

  • United States-Libya_Rich.jpg US evacuates embassy in Libya amid clashes

    The United States shuttered its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort as fighting intensified between rival militias. Secretary of State John Kerry said “free-wheeling militia violence” prompted the move.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP9607270692 copy.jpg Today in History for Sunday, July 27, 2014

    Today is Sunday, July 27, the 208th day of 2014. There are 157 days left in the year.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • No ticket for Shrek over loud musical, chief says

    A musical being performed in a New Hampshire park has drawn some noise complaints, but the deputy police chief says he’s “not giving Shrek a ticket.”

    July 26, 2014

  • Arizona Execution Dru_Rich copy.jpg Arizona’s McCain: Execution was torture

    U.S. Sen. John McCain says the execution of an Arizona inmate that lasted two hours was torture.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ukraine Plane_Rich copy.jpg US: Russia firing into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results