Sunday, February 7, 2016

What role is frustration playing?

And then there was one.

What role is frustration playing?

(Akira Suwa / Staff Photographer)
(Akira Suwa / Staff Photographer)

And then there was one.

Mayor Nutter was the first to go. He was "cut out" of SEPTA contract negotiations during an acrimonious exchange in the press with TWU president Willie Brown. Nutter had criticized the union, and Brown retorted by calling the mayor "little Caesar" and saying he would no longer meet with him.

Yesterday, after making some optimistic remarks that didn't pan out, Governor Rendell threatened to cut himself out of the process, and to take $7 million in state money with him if the union didn't bring SEPTA's latest contract offer to its members for a vote. The governor's exit, should it come to pass, would be similarly unfriendly. At the press conference announcing it, Rendell said he was "entirely frustrated."

Of the three big shot pols who set out to help mediate this strike, only congressman Bob Brady has not thus far left on bad terms. And Rendell, by demanding a membership vote, has given the impression that he just doesn't want to deal with union leadership anymore. Which makes us wonder: How much of a role are personal frustration and animosity playing in the stalemate?

More coverage
Strike survival guide
Where does SEPTA's money come from?
Why is accurate information so hard to come by?
Polaneczky: Frustrated commuters deride strikers
Heller: Brown's got nerves
It's Our Money: Fiscal impact of strike hard to measure
How long will the SEPTA strike last?
7-10 days
11-14 days
15-21 days
More than 21 days

SEPTA management and union leadership can't just abandon negotiations -- they're the actual parties in the dispute. But no doubt they're feeling frustrated, too -- getting tired of one another's voices and, probably, annoying personal tics. How could they not? They've spent over a week in a room, under a lot of public pressure, arguing. Each side probably thinks the other is being completely unreasonable. And these folks aren't even professional politicians, who pretend to like people for a living. They're probably tempted to hold back on concessions just to not give the other guy the satisfaction.

One hopes, however, that the participants are managing to keep the larger picture in mind -- that there's a whole city of people who need them to sort this out, and soon. It's not a good sign that no negotiations are scheduled. Remember: It's not about the guy across the table.

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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