WHYY/Newsworks is reporting that TWU Local 234 will not strike against SEPTA immediately after its strike authorization vote on Sunday. Union local president Willie Brown will instead launch TWU’s PR campaign at a press conference Monday afternoon, attempting to convince a skeptical public why TWU is justified in walking off the job for the first time in six years. WHYY reports that TWU will not walk off the job before that press conference
There is nothing holding TWU to not walking out Monday night, should it vote to authorize a strike on Sunday. In fact, there is nothing that holds it to the word of the anonymous sources of WHYY’s story. But there are two major reasons to think that the story will prove accurate. One is that it would be a very odd thing for the union to miscommunicate to or burn a journalist so flagrantly. The other is an analysis of the union’s rational self-interest. The union creates minor disruption every day it could strike but does not, while suffering none of the legal or financial consequences of an actual strike action. On the other hand, if they walk out now, they risk alienating what little remains of its public sympathy, even in the pro-labor political environment of Philadelphia. SEPTA management is credited with a renaissance at the transit agency, and TWU still bears the black reputation of the many strikes it waged against SEPTA in the 1990s and 2000s. TWU is simply holding a weak hand, and needs to draw better support before a showdown with SEPTA. Good luck to them, I suppose. They’ll need it.