PHILADELPHIA, October 23 — This morning, National President Eddie Hall announced that BLET members will conduct a strike vote at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA).
Voting begins today and results will be announced on November 20, 2023. A majority vote in the affirmative will not automatically bring about a work action. It authorizes President Hall to order a work stoppage.
BLET represents about 160 locomotive engineers at SEPTA. The BLET has been negotiating with SEPTA since March 2, 2022, when their previous four-year contract ended. For BLET members, major sticking points throughout negotiations have been low wages and SEPTA’s continued use of managers to perform the work of locomotive engineers. BLET General Chairman Don Hill reports that the engineers’ and conductors’ top pay rate is about 20 percent below their nearest peers. The non-competitive pay has caused the engineer ranks to sink. Chairman Hill says the engineer roster is at 160 when it should be closer to 230. The shortage has led to service disruptions and the outright cancellation of trains, often stranding passengers. But instead of offering higher pay to retain engineers, the railroad has been paying its managers extra to fulfill its service obligations. Hill says the railroad has little incentive to hire more engineers because of its over-use of managers, some of whom make an extra $4,000 per month running trains. In May, Hill led a large BLET public protest to shed light on SEPTA’s manpower shortages.
BLET National President Eddie Hall said, “The compensation offered on this property is not competitive. The low wages have driven engineers away at a rapid pace, leading to severe manpower shortages. I am confident our members will make their voices heard loud and clear with this strike vote, and we will abide by the provisions of the Railway Labor Act as we pursue self-help.”