Philadelphia’s transit authority spent nearly $500,000 on outside legal counsel during negotiations with striking workers this past month.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) spent $423,388 on outside labor counsel to handle negotiations with Transport Workers Union Local 234 (TWU) over the contract agreed to after a six-day strike in November, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.
The lead negotiator, Ballard Spahr, billed SEPTA $310,013 in 2016 for TWU-related matters, while the firm Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney was billed $113,375.
Approximately 4,700 workers, represented by TWU Local 234, immediately went on strike after their contract with SEPTA expired midnight Oct. 31.
The walkout threw a proverbial wrench into the transportation network of the nation’s fifth largest city, and forced hundreds of thousands of Philadelphia-area commuters to find alternative methods of transportation.
The strike was a result of failed negotiations over wages, pensions, healthcare and general working conditions. SEPTA’s board publicly released a portion of its new offer, and the two sides traded jabs in public statements. SEPTA offered to raise average pay (with overtime) from $68,100 to $76,200 by 2021, according to local media, something the union does not specifically oppose. The union took issue with the pension cap, which limited employee pensions to $30,000 a year. The transit authority is removing the cap, along with an eight percent increase in pension benefits.
The strike was led by Willie Brown, President of TWU Local 234, who once told a Philadelphia magazine that he always wanted to be a union president. “When I was a little boy, a guy took me to a union function; it was a Christmas party. From that point forward, I wanted to be in a union,” Brown told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2014.
SEPTA and the unions were able to reach an agreement before Election Day Nov. 8.
Officials were concerned that the strike, if it continued, could have had massive implications for voter turnout in Pennsylvania’s largest metropolitan area. (RELATED: Will Philadelphia’s Transit Strike Doom Hillary?)
A ripple effect of the ongoing walkout is the increased use of taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, causing a surge in price for average commuters.
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