Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Striking on Election Day 

Transport Workers Union Local 234, the largest union representing workers for SEPTA (servicing the subways, buses and trains in the greater Philadelphia area) went on strike today at 3:00 AM.

As a thought experiment, what would the headlines be if this particular union happened to be one that had historically close ties to the Republican Party? Is it conceivable that there would be some mention of an attempt at suppressing voter turnout?

Fortunately, Pennsylvania Governor Rendell is a Democrat, Philadelphia Mayor Nutter is a Democrat, and I believe all major unions in the Philadelphia are generally supportive of the Democratic Party, so this is all blue-on-blue. The Governor and the Mayor deserve some credit for averting the strike over this past weekend, when the World Series was in town, and without mass transit, the commute around the sports complex in South Philly would have been more nightmarish that it was. The union had been operating without a new contract since March, and had threatened to walk out at what they perceived to be their moment of maximum leverage.

The reality is that most voters in the City of Philadelphia live within walking distance of their polling places, though for elderly voters (who tend to have high turn out), not being able to take a bus for a couple of blocks might be the difference between going to vote and staying home. If I was truly a conspiracy nut, I would be thinking that perhaps it is the case that election officials might have a greater reliance on mass transit on Election Day, and the striking union might be wanting to inconvenience that group, towards some nefarious end of its own design. Naaahh, can't be.


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