Emergency meeting set Thursday for SEPTA, union

PHILADELPHIA - April 2, 2014

"I believe SEPTA is trying to force a strike," said Willie Brown, TWU local 234 president.

Brown says he's willing to do what it takes to avoid a strike.

On Wednesday, TWU local 234 offered to enter into binding arbitration but SEPTA says that usually only works in the favor of unions.

SEPTA issued a statement saying it doesn't serve anyone's interest to allow an outside third party to dictate wages, benefits and working conditions.

Brown says it's a reasonable way to break the log jam.

"I feel confident about my position. If they feel confident about their position, why would they be afraid of binding arbitration," said Brown.

However that won't happen. Instead, the two sides will sit face to face at this table Thursday morning trying to reach an agreement before the last of four union contracts expires at midnight Sunday.

The last time Brown called a strike in 2009, it was at 3:00 a.m., catching everyone by surprise.

Would he at least, give riders 24-hours notice this time?

"I can't say when, where or how. I'm hoping we don't come to that," said Brown.

Brown is calling together the union's section leaders for an emergency strike meeting Thursday night.

So far, there's been no strike authorization vote by the membership.

Brown says his priority is to avoid a strike but what are the odds?

"It would be more 70-30 that there would be a strike at some point. We have to make them better," he said.

It all depends on how things go at the bargaining table on Thursday.

SEPTA is preparing a strike contingency plans just in case, and, even though a strike is not inevitable at this point, riders should also be making plans.

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