PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- SEPTA workers have voted to authorize a strike if an agreement isn't reached on a new contract.
The transit union's contract with SEPTA expires at midnight on Sunday, October 31.
Union president Willie Brown says he is still hopeful the strike will not happen. He says workers have three main concerns at the negotiating table: fair wages, parental leave and safety issues.
"It's been a long 18 months in the cleaning department, cleaning the stations," said SEPTA worker Jonathan Saladones. "Conditions are pretty crazy. You got the homeless population, you got the opioid epidemic and a pandemic. It's not been easier for any of us."
SEPTA maintains the agency is losing approximately $1 million a day in revenue due to a sharp decline in ridership as more employers embrace teleworking.
And while TWU Local 234 and SEPTA are still in negotiations, more than 5,000 SEPTA workers will walk off the job on November 1 if there's no agreement. This strike would affect thousands of riders on SEPTA buses, trolleys, subways, and elevated train service. The Regional Rail would still run.
The Philadelphia School District said in a statement that a walkout "could require some or all of our schools to shift to 100% virtual learning." Nearly 60,000 students and many staff members rely on SEPTA, and with a driver shortage already, providing transportation to students during a strike "would not be an option," the district said.
Following Sunday's meeting, SEPTA released a statement saying, "SEPTA and representatives from TWU Local 234 have been engaging in a productive dialogue at the bargaining table. Those discussions will continue this week, and we are hopeful that an agreement can be reached without any service disruptions for riders."
SEPTA riders are chiming in on the potential strike.
"I don't think they should be going on strike with the holidays coming up," said Sam Bond of Mount Airy. "A lot of people need their jobs and they can't get to work. It'll be a bad Christmas for them."
"For me, it means I'd have to take Uber and spend hundreds of dollars getting from point A to point B," said Matthew DeMarco of Overbrook.
SEPTA Statement on Contract Negotiations:
"SEPTA is committed to negotiating in good faith with TWU Local 234 on a new contract that is fair and financially responsible. We are hopeful that an agreement can be reached without any service disruptions. While federal COVID relief dollars are providing vital funds to stabilize operations during this ongoing crisis, these are temporary resources. SEPTA continues to lose approximately $1 million a day in revenues due to sharp declines in ridership, and with more employers embracing telework as we move into recovery, we know that ridership will not return to where it was in February 2020. We have to find a way to provide fair wages and benefits to employees, while also facing the challenges ahead. That's why SEPTA has presented two paths to TWU leadership: a shorter-term deal that provides wage increases, a pandemic payment and other benefits, and a longer-term proposal that reflects future uncertainties. We look forward to reaching agreement on a new contract that provides stability for both our employees and the customers who rely on us every day."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.