With election results still unclear for control of SEPTA's largest union, Transport Workers Union Local 234 president Jean Alexander found a note today on the door of the union hall threatening to lock her out.Sounds like the new management is jumping the gun a little bit...
"All former alarm codes have been deleted," the notice posted on the door of the union hall on Spring Garden said. "Any attempt to gain entry with an old code will bring a police response."
Alexander, at the moment, trails her challenger, Jeff Brooks, by 69 votes - 1420 votes to 1489 votes. This week, the results of 93 sealed ballots will be counted, deciding polling which took place Friday. Another candidate, Bill Simmons, received 817 votes.
Refusing to concede defeat until all votes are counted this week and a formal transition takes place Oct. 3, Alexander was in her office and still fighting yesterday.
"This is what I've had to put up with for the last two years," Alexander said of the note posted by a member of Brooks' slate.
Brooks, 48, was ill with the flu and unavailable for comment, his spokesman Bob "R.J." Bedard said yesterday.And almost certainly begins the strike watch, which, if negotiations fail, will end on March 15, 2005, when the current 1-year agreement expires.
"It appears that Jeff Brooks is going to win the election," Bedard added. "The membership wants new leadership."
So begins a new, suspenseful chapter in the bitter recent history of the 4,700-member union whose workers operate or maintain every bus, subway, trolley and Market Frankford El vehicle in Philadelphia.
Elected in 2001, Alexander has twice trounced coup attempts by her executive board, most of whom were elected from an opposing slate.It would seem most riders couldn't care less about who's running the unions as long as bus and rail service is operating normally. Of course, Philadelphia is a notoriously strong union town...
Brooks' campaign marks the end of his recent suspension from participating in union politics. In 2000, Brooks was one of many union officials stripped of their duties by the New York-based Transport Workers Union International following an inquiry into union financial mismanagement.
Continuing turbulence at the top of Local 234 gives SEPTA riders one more thing to worry about.
SEPTA has already threatened to cut weekend service and raise fares 25 percent to meet its $62 million budget crisis unless the legislature acts before Jan 1. Next March, SEPTA and Local 234 will have to negotiate a new contract or face a city-paralyzing strike.Not to mention the headaches associated with a potential strike, namely heavier traffic and a lot of people not getting to work...
Alexander, 67, averted a strike last March by winning an unusual one-year contract that preserved virtually free healthcare and lifetime prescription benefits but offered no raises. For that she won a standing ovation at the state convention of the AFLCIO last spring. But that stop gap contract was not enough for many Local 234 members, Bedard said.
"All she did was delay the confrontation for another year," he said.
With Brooks the apparent victor, SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney yesterday sought to build the relationship.Perhaps it would also be in the best interest of the public if the Minister of Mis-information could come up with a less caustic remark.
"If there is new leadership," Maloney said, "It would be in the interest of the union to continue our partnership to seek permanent dedicated funding in Harrisburg."
Alexander has jointly lobbied legislators with SEPTA general manager Faye Moore to end the transit agency's budget woes. The Brooks team is looking for more than that, asserting yesterday that the union - not SEPTA - will drive lobbying efforts.Boy, us riders - and a lot of municipal politicians - can relate to that...
"Up to date, SEPTA has not been full and equal partners with us," Bedard said. Inquirer