Federal Mediators Meet With SEPTA, Unions to Avoid Strike

Federal mediators, appointed by the President, will sit down for the first time on Monday with SEPTA and its rail workers to try and hash out a deal to avoid a further strike on the Regional Rail lines.

About 400 members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers walked off the job on June 14 leaving the transit authority's 13 Regional Rail lines shut down. But the strike only lasted for one day. President Barack Obama, at the request of Gov. Tom Corbett, signed an executive order forming a federal mediation board and putting the workers back on the job.

The rail workers are fighting for increased pension contributions, four years of retroactive pay and wage increases. Both unions have been working without a contract for years. SEPTA says the union demands are not economically viable.

The board will have about a month to meet with both sides before making recommendations to President Obama on July 14. While the mediation is seen as a way to resolve a future strike, the boards recommendations are non-binding.

The president does have the ability to sign two additional executive orders, each preventing the workers from striking for 120 days. Should the president sign those orders, the next possible strike could come in February 2015.

The last SEPTA regional rail strike, in 1983, lasted more than three months.

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