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Obama intervenes in Philadelphia rail strike

June 15, 2014

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — President Barack Obama on Saturday intervened in a commuter rail strike in the nation’s sixth-largest metropolitan area, granting Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s request to create a presidential emergency board to mediate the contract dispute between the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and its engineers and electricians unions.

Obama ordered the establishment of the three-member board and called for “a swift and smooth resolution” of the dispute.

Workers will have to return to the job when the board goes into effect after midnight, however SEPTA said it would take eight to 10 hours to restore service. 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.

More than 400 workers went on strike at midnight, and no talks were scheduled over the weekend.

Workers are seeking raises of at least 14.5 percent over five years — or about 3 percentage points more than SEPTA has offered.

The move shut down 13 train lines that carry commuters from Philadelphia to the suburbs, Philadelphia International Airport and New Jersey. The agency’s subways, trolleys and buses continue to run.

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.

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Associated Press writer Peter Jackson in Harrisburg contributed to this report.

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