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June 16, 2014
This past Saturday, two unions involved with the SEPTA Regional Rail Lines went on strike after not being able to come to an agreement on a new contract. Over 400 rail line engineers and electricians decided to go on strike after not agreeing with SEPTA on proposed wage increases, forcing 13 of the regional rail lines to stop running. Governor Tom Corbett, in an effort to create less havoc and stress for the 60,000 commuters that use the rail lines during the week, asked President Obama to intervene.
Around 7pm on Saturday, President Obama signed an official executive order, forcing the hundreds of employees to return to work on Sunday, while also creating an emergency mediation board to help resolve the conflict. The executive order got the 13 rail lines back up-and-running by Sunday, and will force both sides to continue negotiations to reach an agreement.
The dispute between the unions and SEPTA involve retroactive pay, pension contributions and future wage increases. The unions are asking for 14.5% wage increase in the next 5 years, about 3% higher than what was offered by SEPTA.
The emergency mediation board has given both sides their recommendations, and have scheduled hearings for next week to hear both sides’ stories. The executive order issued by President Obama can block these unions from striking for up to 240 days, which would expire next February. The last strike by the regional rail lines in 1983 lasted more than 3 months. Hopefully SEPTA and the unions can come to an agreement much quicker than that.
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