Looks like I got back to Philly just in time for SEPTA's contract with Local 234 to run out tonight. The issue at hand? You guessed it: For the first time, SEPTA wants veteran bus drivers, cashiers and mechanics to regularly pay for health care - estimated between $50 and $100 a week. New employees now pay part of health costs for their first three years on the job. SEPTA also wants to end treasured lifetime prescription coverage for retirees. As for pay raises, SEPTA proposes none for the first two years of a four-year contract, followed by a 2 percent increase for each of the remaining years. Workers flatly refuse to support those concessions. "SEPTA Beware. Keep hands off our benefits," is the slogan on buttons worn by SEPTA drivers, cashiers and mechanics. Time for SEPTA to settle, or else bear the responsibility for keeping 400,000 riders from work.


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