SEPTA STRIKE: The Kids Are Alright — NOT!

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laptop-girl.thumbnail.jpgBY JENN W. Planes, Trains and Automobiles! Scratch the planes (would be awesome though) and you’ve got your two options of getting to and from school for the students of the School District of Philadelphia. The wonderful world of SEPTA has ground to a halt, effectively stranding me and my school-age commuter peers. I’m Jenn W. and I’m a freshman at Science Leadership Academy smack dab between 30th Street and Suburban Stations. SLA, the a little known gem of a school that has a partnership with The Franklin Institute with project based learning and Mac laptops. Yeah, you wish there was a school like it in your day, I know. I love it.

Coming from a middle school that carted me around in a yellow bus, I never really had to worry about “strikes.” I wish I still didn’t. Considering that I live too far away to walk to school, I have two options and neither of them are all that septa.thumbnail.gifgreat: Navigate the chaos that is the Regional Rail or ask my dad to take me to school and be late for work. When my SEPTA bus was running, I hated it, and now that it’s not running I hate it even more. I mean, whats not to like about getting to know the local hobos sitting next to me on the Number 7. But in all seriousness, it is hugely inconvenient for my classmates and myself. The ‘lucky’ ones are my friends at SLA who happen to live in Center City and can walk, sometimes as far as 20 blocks, to get to school. The good news is that since we use laptops the assignments at my school are posted online where and you can do them at home during an excused absence. And yes, the strike counts as an excused absence, but the Internet is no replacement for being there. I can only imagine what its like at other Philly schools where they don’t have fancy laptops for every student.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: another complaining teenager. So I’ll get down to brass tax. The Transportation Workers Union Local 234 has turned down an offer that, as I understand it, would have been a win for them (as well as the people who need the bus J). Workers wanted a pay raise and SEPTA wanted higher worker pension septa.thumbnail.gifcontributions. I’m not knocking unions or saying you shouldn’t exercise the right to create a workplace that meets the needs of workers, but when you provide a vital service that impacts the lives of 3.8 million people — many with few other options — you can’t just bang your fists until you get everything you want. It’s not even like the workers are extra special in their jobs or anything. I take the same bus every day and sure have encountered a few less-than-friendly-and-accommodating SEPTA workers along the way. I don’t know, maybe I’m just bitter that I can’t stay for my newspaper meeting because my dad has to pick me up. So I’m talking to you Willie Brown when I say you need to get this over with because I need to get to school.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenn W. is a freshman at the Science Leadership Academy. She last wrote about her adventures at Rock Camp.

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RELATED: Observers familiar with the delicate, racially tinged interplay between SEPTA and the TWU see more at septa.thumbnail.gifissue than money. Willie Brown is a first-term TWU president facing an election in 10 months. In taking his membership out on strike, observers said, he shows he’s tough enough to stand up to SEPTA. Many union workers are African American, the agency managers largely white. Everything between the sides filters through a prism of suspicion and distrust. Last year, Brown said contract negotiations would center on getting workers “the respect and dignity they deserve.” Yesterday, he hammered at what he said was an unfair disparity in how SEPTA funds pensions for managers and workers. MORE

RELATED: A SEPTA track inspector was fatally struck by a train in North Philadelphia this morning, disrupting septa.thumbnail.gifservice on three Regional Rail lines for several hours. The incident was the second in two days to affect Regional Rail service at a time when commuter trains are coping with extra passengers because of the strike against the city’s mass transit system. Kevin Sparks, an 8-year SEPTA employee, was struck about 8:30 a.m. by a southbound R3 West Trenton train near the Philadelphia-Montgomery County border just south of the Melrose Park station. MORE

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