Here we are in Day 2 of the SEPTA strike; commuters are still struggling to get around, and there's still no end in sight. We got to wondering about ways to prevent this from happening in the future. Here's one idea: transportation workers forfeit their ability to strike in exchange for binding arbitration.
Binding arbitration is currently used in contract negotiations for police officers and firefighters, who are barred by state law from striking. Basically, if the negotiating parties can't come to an agreement (and they usually can't), the contracts are decided by a panel of three people who act as mediators. Generally, both labor and management adhere to the results of the arbitration process, though limited appeals are possible. For more on binding arbitration, check out this post.
If SEPTA and the TWU agreed to binding arbitration, commuters would no longer have to worry about waking up one morning to find that the buses aren't running because of a strike. Union members would still have collective bargaining, but disagreements wouldn't cause the system to shut down.
Would it be justifiable? We think so. Mass transit is essential. Residents of Philadelphia need public transportation just like we need police and firefighters. This is particularly true during tough economic times, but also if we're serious about making Philadelphia more sustainable.