Contract negotiations between SEPTA and TWU 234 are starting, with TWU president Jeff Brooks and Fearless Leader exchanging proposals in Center City yesterday. With SEPTA's ongoing financial crisis, it appears that riders could be looking at the ugliest negotiations since the 1998 labor talks, which resulted in a crippling 40-day strike by City and Frontier workers.
Prior to his sit-down with Fearless Leader, Brooks offered several gripes about SEPTA's management abilities to Dan Geringer of the Philadelphia Daily News (a fully-paid subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee):
“These streets were filled with flourishing businesses,” Brooks said yesterday, looking at the shuttered storefronts and the survivors struggling to make ends meet. “What has happened here is a disaster. This is ridiculous.
“This is SEPTA’s inability to serve the people they’re supposed to serve in this neighborhood,” Brooks said. “Is that based on the racial makeup of this neighborhood or SEPTA’s basic inability to get things done? Do SEPTA project engineers have a time frame for getting this finished, or is it infinite?
“If this was the Northeast, this wouldn’t have happened. The Frankford end of the El was rebuilt in no time compared to this. So why is this happening here?”
Brooks then stood in front of Pyong Kim’s Twin Discount variety store to conduct a press conference about the opening of contract talks with SEPTA.
Kim said he’s had his store on 60th and Market since 1976. Business was fine, he said, until SEPTA’s Market El reconstruction began and killed 75 percent of Kim’s sales.
His wife, who worked in the store, now travels downtown and baby-sits to help make ends meet.
“We are tired of SEPTA pitting the community against us at contract time,” Brooks said, adding that SEPTA management traditionally blames its financial woes on transit workers’ salaries and health benefits.
“We want the public to know that we \[transit workers\] live in these communities. Our mothers and our children stand in the snow waiting for the bus just like the rest of the riding public. We use the same schools, go to the same churches. We are the community, too.”
Brooks said that “united with the riding public,” the TWU would fight for SEPTA reforms such as scheduling enough buses to end overcrowding, safely lit and sheltered bus stands with posted route schedules and emergency call boxes that work, and monitored video cameras on all train platforms. Daily News