Inquirer Editorial: Forward momentum

Union boss Willie Brown seems to recognize that a transit strike would be inadvisable.
Union boss Willie Brown seems to recognize that a transit strike would be inadvisable. (TOM GRALISH / Staff)
Posted: April 10, 2014

More than 350,000 daily passengers are counting on SEPTA and its workers to reach a labor pact without a strike. But as important as uninterrupted service is to the city and its economy, there's a good deal more riding on an agreement between the transit agency and its 5,500 bus drivers, subway and trolley operators, and mechanics.

With a recent infusion of $400 million a year in state funding championed by Gov. Corbett, and with improved service and finances under general manager Joseph M. Casey, SEPTA also has a newly burnished reputation that it must keep on track. That's vital not only to sustaining riders' loyalty, but also to continued support from Harrisburg, signaling to civic, corporate, and tourism interests that the region's transit network is a reliable asset.

So the cautiously hopeful signs that an agreement might be reached without a walkout are as welcome as an on-time bus on a chilly spring morning. A mid-March contract extension agreed to by Transport Workers Union Local 234 president Willie Brown, along with SEPTA managers' decision to relent on a contentious two-tiered pension proposal, showed reasonable give-and-take on both sides of the table.

A potential strike deadline passed Sunday, and while Brown was talking tough this week, he has also wisely noted that a strike would hurt his members' families even as it inconveniences patrons. Nor did the veteran union leader indicate that he was readying a strike vote. Meanwhile, SEPTA officials have offered the union a modest raise and a plan for health-care cost-sharing that would be seen as workable in the private sector.

It's clear that a deal precluding picket lines is within reach, and that should be the goal. Brown and Casey should know better than anyone that such an outcome would prove SEPTA is poised to keep moving forward.

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