SEPTA Walkout In Third Day
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Hundreds of thousands of commuters and students used alternate ways to get around the city this morning, from car pools to skateboards, as a strike by bus, trolley and subway workers entered its third day.
″It’s a zoo,″ Gene Aucott of Shadow Traffic, a traffic reporting service, said of the morning rush hour. He said motorists from northeast Philadelphia, used to an 18-minute trip downtown on southbound Interstate 95, were finding trips took an hour.
He said city streets weren’t too bad, but highways were heavily congested - the reverse of Monday’s situation.
″It seems like everybody’s trying their alternates at the same time,″ he said.
No talks were scheduled as of this morning between the Transport Workers Union Local 234 and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. The 5,100-member union walked off the job Sunday night.
The local union president, Roger Tauss, on Monday proposed setting aside wage issues and returning to negotiate with SEPTA about the union’s allegation that workers have been harassed.
SEPTA spokesman Joaquin Bowman would not respond directly to Tauss’ proposal, saying the transit authority already negotiated on the issue.
″Any further negotiations will be scheduled by the mediator,″ Bowman said.
Ridership on SEPTA’s suburban commuter rail lines, which are not affected by the strike, swelled and 20-block long traffic jams snaked through the city Monday, the first workday of the strike.
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s car pool hotline received about 500 calls Monday, most of them people looking for rides, said Rita Dommermuth, program director.
At Central High School, which relies almost exclusively on SEPTA for student transportation, a room was set aside to store bikes.
At the Julia R. Masterman School, Principal Melvin K. McMaster said he counted 20 to 25 skateboards Monday.
″We don’t recommend that, particularly in this traffic,″ he said.
During a rally Monday outside SEPTA headquarters, Tauss told 200 strikers that if SEPTA resolved the non-economic issues, ″the strike would be settled in a day.″
Tauss said the two sides were not far apart on pay issues.
When talks broke off Sunday, SEPTA had offered a pay increase of $1.12 an hour over three years. The union sought $1.50 an hour. Average base pay was $11.50 an hour under the contract that expired at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
The union alleges SEPTA managers unfairly discipline workers on charges that arbitrators later reverse. The union wants SEPTA to pay attorney’s fees in cases where the union wins, a demand Tauss described as the TWU’s key issue.
Bowman said SEPTA had improved its offer during last-minute bargaining by dropping demands for hiring part-time workers and for the elimination of a no- layoff clause.