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Society

Philly Wants Election Day Transit Strike Stop

November 7, 2016

PHILADELPHIA — The city of Philadelphia filed a motion in state court seeking an injunction to temporarily halt the city’s transit strike for Election Day so residents can get to the polls to vote.

The court is expected to hear the city’s motion the morning of Nov. 7.

“Though there are extensive efforts to minimize the effect of any transit strike on Election Day, unquestionably, such an Election-Day strike will make it practically impossible for many Philadelphians to participate in this election,” City Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante said in a statement Sunday.

Transport Workers Union local, which represents about 4,700 workers, went on strike just after midnight Nov. 1 after it was unable to reach a contract agreement with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

Buses, trolleys and subways that provide about 900,000 rides a day were shut down. Pensions, work rules and health care costs were said to be among the issues on the bargaining table.

Democratic city leaders are worried that if the strike continues through Election Day, some voters will not be able to get to the polls because they will be spending so much time getting to and from work.

Pennsylvania is a battleground state, and the vote in overwhelmingly Democratic Philadelphia is critically important to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as she battles Republican Donald Trump.

“While there is still time for SEPTA and TWU to resolve the strike before Election Day, the Law Department must act now to ensure that as many Philadelphia residents as possible can vote without disruption,” Tulante said. “As a result, we are asking the Court for temporary relief.”

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Nov. 6 said he intended to file a legal document in support of an injunction request filed by SEPTA.

The transit agency argues the walkout endangers public health and safety as well as the right of residents to vote in the Nov. 8 general election. The union has accused SEPTA of relying on the courts to end the strike rather than bargaining.

“The strike has been devastating for so many individuals and their families and has created extreme hardships for the city and for businesses,” Gov. Wolf said in a statement. “The time for it to end is now.”

A judge is to hear more arguments Nov. 7 after declining to issue an injunction Nov. 4.

The walkout is the ninth since 1975 by the city transit union. The last one, in 2009, lasted six days, but some have lasted for weeks.

SEPTA said that once the strike ends, the first services would likely return within 4-6 hours, but would be limited and sporadic. The transit agency said it would hope to be at or close to full service within about 16 hours.

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