It appears the Transport Workers Union does not want to negotiate a new contract.
For the most part, TWU president, Jeff Brooks has been MIA from the bargaining table. He’s been too busy trying to make his case to everyone but the SEPTA negotiators.
Yesterday, Mr. Brooks complained in the media that, so far, SEPTA has not made any wage offers.
He’s absolutely right. There will not be any wage offer until Mr. Brooks is finally willing to sit down and negotiate health insurance premiums.
The health insurance issue is the elephant sitting at the bargaining table, and Mr. Brooks hasn’t seen it.
Last February, when Governor Rendell announced emergency funding for SEPTA, he addressed the health insurance premium issue by saying, "Today in America, there isn’t anyone who does not contribute to the cost of their health care." The Governor repeated precisely the same statement yesterday.
The SEPTA Board, state and local elected leaders, the regional business community and the editorial boards of the regional media are unanimous on this one issue – the next contract between SEPTA and the Transport Workers Union must include employee contributions to health insurance.
Unfortunately, the TWU seems to feel if they refuse to negotiate the issue, it will be taken off the table. They are dead wrong.
Mr. Brooks told the media yesterday that he’s charging each of his members five-dollars a week to help pay for the negotiations. That adds up to 92-thousand dollars a month – over a million dollars a year.
So, what does Mr. Brooks have to lose by avoiding negotiations, by refusing to sit down at the bargaining table, and by eventually asking for another contract extension? Nothing. What does Mr. Brooks have to gain by another delay – you ask him the question. And then ask SEPTA riders what they have to gain by having the threat of a strike hanging over their heads for months to come.
Time is short – but there is still enough time to do a deal.
This is SEPTA’s message to Mr. Brooks -- we can do a deal today - or we can do a deal a year from today. But, in the end – the deal will include employee contributions to health insurance.
It’s time for Mr. Brooks to look the elephant in the eye.
Recall that not too long ago, Fearless Leader angrily referred to Brooks as "Mr. New Guy" during the early part of negotiations. Speaking of which, where exactly has Fearless Leader been during these negotiations? Is she really content to allow a political hack like Maloney do all the dirty work so she can take the credit (or assign blame) once a new deal is done?
If that doesn't sound like a General Manager who appears detached and uninterested, I don't really know what does...