Barring a deal at the negotiating table, it looks like Philadelphia will be without city transit into the weekend.
A Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge denied SEPTA’s request for an injunction Friday that would have ended the ongoing strike entirely. Instead, Judge Linda Carpenter scheduled a hearing for 10:30 AM Monday to consider ordering SEPTA workers back on the job for Election Day.
At 3 p.m. Friday, SEPTA filed for a preliminary injunction to force striking subway, bus and trolley operators to go back to work, as Transit Workers Union Local 234’s four-day-old strike showed no signs of stopping.
Attorneys for SEPTA claimed the strike is putting residents of the city in danger, saying more than 55,000 school children who rely on the service to get to school have been relegated to the sidewalks. They also said disabled Philadelphians are struggling to just get around, and raised concerns about voter disenfranchisement on Election Day on Tuesday.
“SEPTA serves a population that is uniquely transit dependent,” SEPTA attorney Robert Hawkins said.
However, attorneys representing the striking union called the unprecedented maneuver “gamesmanship.”
“It appears that SEPTA’s plan all along was to avoid real bargaining while relying on legal tricks,” the Transit Workers Union said in a news release blasting the legal filing. “We are committed to bargaining a new agreement as soon as possible. That will happen at the bargaining table – not by rushing into court in a pointless attempt to restrict workers’ rights.”
The 4,700-member union authorized a strike in October, as it appeared it wasn’t close to coming to a resolution with the transit agency. Employees walked off the job at midnight Monday. Since then, traffic in and around the city has been snarled and public transportation in the city has remained virtually nonexistent.
SEPTA won an emergency injunction against workers picketing the Regional Rail tracks within a few hours of its filing, but roads remain crowded as the strike continued, and more riders than usual relied on Regional Rail to get in and out of the city.