PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The president of SEPTA's union is telling members to be on the watch for a strike. The president of Transit Workers Union Local 234, Willie Brown, is saying there will be a strike vote authorization on Sunday if there's no progress in talks this week.
The strike vote could force Philadelphia schools to return to remote learning as both sides try to come to an agreement.
With just 11 days to go, a possible strike has put anyone who relies on SEPTA on notice, especially Philadelphia students who've already faced delays this year due to bus driver shortages.
"We're not trying to be greedy," Brown said. "We're not trying to break the bank. We're not trying to be unreasonable."
On Tuesday, Brown outlined four key points that he says if are not met will mean a strike come Nov. 1. Those four points are maternity leave, compensation for employees who died from COVID-19, safety and wages.
"SEPTA has offered us lower wages than everyone else in the region and we're not going to accept low wages, we're not going to take that," Brown said.
In a statement, SEPTA states it is "committed to negotiating a new contract that is fair and financially responsible," but adds with ridership down since the pandemic, the nation's sixth-largest public transit system is losing $1 million every day.
"I don't think the citizens should suffer for this," one Philadelphia man said.
While management has offered short and long-term solutions to bridge the gap, union leaders aren't willing to wait.
"These are human rights issues," Brown said. "These are issues we need to keep us and our families safe."
The back and forth has forced the Philadelphia School District superintendent to write a letter to parents, warning them of a strike's "devastating impact " on keeping schools open and urged parents to check their students' laptops and internet access in the case of a return to remote learning.
For parents, including this dad who relies on the bus and trolley to get his first grader to class, a strike means questions about how to keep her on track if service should stop.
"They were just getting back into the routine," he said. "She'll have to stay with family members that live near her school until the strike is over or we think of something else."
While both the school district and teachers' union have given their support to the transit workers, they're hopeful for a non-strike resolution.
The next Transit Workers Union Local 234 meeting is scheduled for Sunday at 11 a.m.
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