BLET members who operate regional rail trains for SEPTA in Philadelphia and the surrounding area have voted to grant BLET National President Eddie Hall the authority to call a strike. Results of the vote count on November 20 show that of engineers eligible to cast ballots, all voted to strike.
Don Hill, General Chairman of BLET’s SEPTA locomotive engineers, said that SEPTA currently employs only 177 engineers instead of the 230 needed to properly maintain the agency’s regional rail schedule. A week earlier, in remarks to the SEPTA board, BLET Vice President James P. Louis told board members that the agency’s engineers and trainmen are the lowest paid in the industry, with new engineers paid 58% per hour less than counterparts at Amtrak and the top pay is 20% lower than other commuter railroads in the Northeast. VP Louis also described to the Philly Voice the lack of benefits, such as parental leave and pension plans, that are standard at other commuter agencies but not at SEPTA.