City transit workers ratify new contract with SEPTA
The two-year agreement assures labor peace at a key moment for Philadelphia's regional public transit agency.
Members of the union representing workers in the city transit division have ratified a two-year contract with SEPTA that includes raises, a hazard bonus for working during the pandemic, and parental leave.
The vote was 1,450-631, a ratio of about 2-1, Transport Workers Union Local 234 announced Saturday. Members cast ballots all day and into the evening Friday at bus depots and other work sites across the city.
Negotiators reached agreement Oct. 29, avoiding a strike that would have shut down public transit in Philadelphia as SEPTA struggles to recover from a steep drop in ridership triggered by COVID-19.
The contract includes wage increases of 3% in each year. TWU 234 members also will receive a hazard bonus of $1 for each hour worked between March 15, 2020, and March 15, 2021, to a maximum of $2,200.
That was an emotional focus for many members of the union, who wanted recognition for the risks they took to keep the city moving during the pandemic. Eleven TWU members have died from COVID-19.
» READ MORE: Transport workers union warns members to prepare for tough contract talks with SEPTA
“Our members are essential workers,” TWU Local 234 president Willie Brown said after the agreement was reached. SEPTA’s board chairman, Pat Deon, said the contract is “fair to our employees and fiscally responsible” for the agency.
For the first time, the contract will require SEPTA to provide two weeks of parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child.
Paid maternity benefits, separate from sick leave, are also included in the bargain. Previously, a pregnant employee was required to exhaust all paid sick leave before qualifying for unpaid pregnancy leave.
The contract also adds Juneteenth as a paid holiday.
TWU represents about 5,000 bus, trolley, and subway drivers, as well as mechanics and station cashiers and other workers. It is the largest SEPTA union.
Depending on job title and service time, union members make between $16 and $36 per hour and are eligible for overtime.
Union members also sought better security on the SEPTA system, given high-profile crimes and abuse and assaults against members, some from passengers frustrated at federal mask requirements on transit. Security was not addressed in the agreement; union leaders said they would continue to press SEPTA on the issue.
Negotiations on a new deal began in July. SEPTA’s board is scheduled to vote on the contract at its monthly meeting Nov. 18.