Judge refuses to order halt to Philadelphia transit strike

November 4, 2016 4:22 PM EDT

Get the Pulse of the Market with StreetInsider.com's Pulse Picks. Get your Free Trial here.

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) - A judge refused on Friday to halt a four-day-old bus and rail strike in Philadelphia, denying a back-to-work petition by transit officials who argued the walkout endangered public welfare, according to both sides in the labor dispute.

A spokeswoman for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), Carla Showell-Lee, said the agency "looks forward to the opportunity to resume testimony in court on Monday morning, but declined to otherwise comment.

A spokesman for Transport Workers Union Local 234, Jamie Horwitz, said the judge's denial was no surprise, calling the transit agency's bid for a preliminary injunction a "long shot."

Courts are generally reluctant to halt strikes.

The union earlier denounced the agency's petition to a state Common Pleas Court as a "pointless" legal maneuver that would only distract from talks aimed at settling the dispute.

The walkout by 4,700 transit workers has idled buses, trolleys and trains that provide some 930,000 rides a day in the fifth most populous city in the United States.

The union declared a strike on Monday night after contract talks with SEPTA stalemated over such issues as healthcare and pension benefits.

In seeking a back-to-work court order, SEPTA cited a Pennsylvania statute that prohibits any labor strike that "creates a clear and present danger or threat to the health, safety or welfare of the public."

It said the strike posed a particular hardship for 52,000 public school students who rely on SEPTA to get to and from classes, as well as for the city's poor and working-class residents. More than half of SEPTA riders earn less than $50,000 a year, and many take two or even three modes of public transit daily, the agency said.

"Those individuals cannot afford to switch to taxis (or) ride-sharing services," the lawsuit said. "News reports have shown people walking literally miles to get to work."

The agency also said a continuation of the strike through Election Day on Tuesday could hamper voter turnout.

Pennsylvania is a key swing state in the presidential campaign between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. Philadelphia is a stronghold of the Democratic Party.

TWU Local 234 President Willie Brown said the focus should remain on negotiations, where "only a handful of issues" stand in the way of reaching an agreement.

Both sides said talks were continuing.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Diane Craft and James Dalgleish)



Serious News for Serious Traders! Try StreetInsider.com Premium Free!

You May Also Be Interested In






Related Categories

Reuters

Related Entities

Donald J. Trump

Add Your Comment