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November 06, 2016

City of Philadelphia files motion to halt SEPTA strike for Election Day

SEPTA strike day 2 1 Hayden Mitman/PhillyVoice

A SEPTA bus behind a fence covered in signs supporting the transit workers union's strike at the intersection of Bustleton Avenue and Penn Street.

The city of Philadelphia filed a motion on Sunday to temporarily halt the ongoing SEPTA strike for Tuesday's election.

A motion filed in state court calls for an injuction to lift the strike on Tuesday in order to allow voters ample options to reach their respective polling stations.

“On November 8, 2016, hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians will cast ballots for President, Senator, and other important offices. The City has a legal responsibility to ensure that Philadelphians can exercise their constitutional right to vote,” City Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante said in a statement. “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. 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. As a result, we are asking the Court for temporary relief.”

The court is expected to hear Philadelphia's motion Monday morning at 9:30.

Despite the formal request, the city declined to take a position on SEPTA's request for a permanent injunction in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. A judge denied that request on Friday but did not rule out further consideration of the case if no resolution is reached early this week.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf issued a statement Sunday supporting the request, adding that he intends to file an amicus brief to advance legal action. 

Over the last several weeks, I have had multiple conversations with both SEPTA and TWU and urged them to come together and reach a fair agreement. Hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania residents rely on SEPTA to travel each day to and from work and school, and to the grocery store and medical appointments among other needs.

It is clear that both sides have failed to reach an agreement and the work stoppage has crippled the City of Philadelphia’s transportation system. It has become not only an issue that is impacting the ability of the elderly and individuals with disabilities to access care, and students to receive an education, but it is also one that has grave economic consequences for both the city and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The strike is also unfair to the workers who want to return to do the job they were trained to do and to serve the people of Pennsylvania.

Due to the inability of SEPTA and TWU to reach a compromise, I will file an amicus brief in support of the immediate injunction pending before the court to ensure that the system is fully operational and able to serve the individuals who rely solely on SEPTA for their transportation needs.

This strike has been devastating for so many individuals and their families and has created extreme hardships for the city and for businesses. The time for it to end is now.

Sunday marked the sixth day of the impasse between SEPTA management and Transport Workers Union Local 234. Service on all SEPTA buses, subways and trolley lines remains suspended.