Friday night on the 11 o'clock live TV news, Gov. Rendell, with U.S. Rep. Bob Brady by his side, announced that the transit strike that had crippled Philadelphia for a week probably would be over by Saturday night - but it wasn't.
Rendell said that negotiators for SEPTA and Transport Workers Union Local 234 had agreed on contract proposals - but he wasn't aware that they hadn't.
The governor said that all that remained was for the negotiators to get the approval of their executive boards on Saturday morning - but they didn't.
The strike by the city's 5,500 unionized bus, train and trolley operators and mechanics, which began without warning at 3 a.m. last Tuesday and ended without warning early yesterday, was out of sync with elected officials' announcements from start to finish.
"When Rendell said on Friday night that an agreement had been reached, he was not basing his announcement on any direct conversations with the union," a TWU Local 234 source close to the negotiations said last night.
"The only people who had met and reached an understanding on two of the remaining issues - pension contributions and health care - were Congressman Brady and [Local 234 President] Willie Brown. Just the two of them. SEPTA and the governor were not involved."
The source said that on Saturday, when the union received SEPTA's revised contract proposal, the two "thorniest" stumbling blocks were:
PENSION PLAN: SEPTA was asking union members to increase their pension contributions because the union's pension fund was funded at 52 percent, the source said. But when the union, alarmed that the funding level was so low, wanted to do a forensic audit on pension-fund books, which had possible legal consequences, SEPTA "refused adamantly," the source said.
"The more they refused, the more we believed something was amiss. If something is not kosher, you're going to fight tooth and nail against an audit."
HEALTH CARE: SEPTA wanted contract language that gave it the right to adjust employee costs and/or benefits if national health-care overhaul increased costs, the source said.
"For us, this was like which poison were we willing to swallow - increased out-of-pocket expenses or cut benefits?" the source said. "It was an insurance policy for SEPTA for their health-care expenses. It was unacceptable."
Instead, the union wanted any issues created by national health-care reform to be handled by the joint labor/management cost-containment committee that is already established in the contract.
Late Sunday, SEPTA agreed to this, and the union withdrew its demand for the forensic audit.
"The union decided that it has other legal remedies to address the underfunding of the pension plan and concerns about possible mismanagement of the plan and its funds," the source said. "The union has every intention of pursuing these remedies."
The two sides also resolved a dispute over funding dental-care insurance.
Early yesterday, the strike was over.
SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney said last night that Brady, a member of the carpenters union, was the key to negotiations throughout the strike week.
"After the process fell apart over the weekend, 99 percent of the credit for getting it moving again towards a resolution goes to Congressman Bob Brady," Maloney said.
"Both sides were exhausted," he said. "The governor was exhausted. From SEPTA's standpoint, we had gone to our extreme limit. There was no further discussion. We had discussed the issues inside out and upside down to the point of futility. But the congressman never gave up.
"He has a remarkable reputation in this city as a lifeline between management and labor," Maloney said. "When the two sides are at loggerheads, Brady's the go-to guy who keeps the conversation going, which is the absolutely critical factor in getting a resolution."
On Saturday, when Rendell, frustrated by yet another breakdown in contract talks, vowed to take the $7 million in state funds he had brought to the table and leave to deal with the rest of Pennsylvania's problems, the media reported a breakdown in talks.
"We never stopped talking," said Brady, who shuttled between the TWU, SEPTA and Rendell, and put the major parties on the phone with each other at least 10 times over the weekend.
"Willie is a very sharp guy. He found a way to make it work within the framework" of SEPTA's money package, Brady said.
On the other hand, Mayor Nutter was a "major hindrance" to negotiations, said another source close to negotiations.
On Friday, the mayor threatened to file a city lawsuit to stop the strike, but, hours later, the city law department issued an opinion that the city couldn't do so because there was no imminent threat to public health, safety and welfare.
Before the World Series, Nutter said that there would be no strike, but the TWU had never agreed to pull it off the table, said Brown, who was infuriated by the mayor's remarks.
Nutter "came in like a bully," said a third source. "He wanted zero [wage increases] in the first year, as low as you could go. Really, he wanted nothing all the way [through five years] if he could get it."
Nutter wanted to keep SEPTA wages low so city union leaders would not use the TWU's new contract as a model for their own wage demands in their long-delayed labor negotiations, the source said.
Nutter showed up when the tentative agreement was announced late Sunday. "Willie didn't want to shake his hand, but eventually did," the source said.
When Nutter was asked about his relationship with Brown yesterday, he replied, "In contract negotiations, a lot of things happen. This is not the Dr. Phil show. Things happen, things get said. We stood next to each other. I shook his hand. It's over. They signed a contract. Buses, trains, trolleys, everything is running. Let's not have a psychology class here."
The union's members will receive a $1,250 bonus upon ratifying the contract in the next several days, and raises of 1.5 percent in July and 1 percent in December 2010, 2.5 percent in 2011, 3.5 percent in 2012 and 3 percent in 2013.
Union members' pension contributions will increase from 1.5 percent of base salary to 3 percent over the length of the contract.