Why is accurate information about the SEPTA strike so hard to come by?

Well, it happened again. Gov. Ed Rendell said last night that SEPTA and the TWU were close to a deal to end the five-day old transit strike. Today, we find out that no agreement is in place. Why does this keep happening?

Politicians speak, people listen. Gov. Ed Rendell and other elected officials have inserted themselves into contract negotiations. Now, instead of just hearing from the union and management, the public (and media) is getting information from third-party sources. So far, politicians have promised a settlement three separate times, only to see the various deals fall apart. We're not sure why that is, but it's important to remember that no elected official -- even Gov. Rendell -- can force a settlement. Ultimately, it's up to the union and management. They'll be the ones who tell us when the strike is over.

The public is eager for a settlement. Why do announcements from politicians generate so much interest? Well, the general public is hoping for a quick resolution to the strike. The media, aware of this desire, have been eagerly covering possible deals. And so everyone keeps on thinking the strike is about to end.

The union isn't talking much. So far, TWU Local 234 has only held one press conference, and union chief Willie Brown has granted few interviews. Consequently, information from the labor perspective has been scarce. Any deal to end the strike will need approval from the union, though, so wait to hear from them before you believe the strike is over.

Negotiations are complicated. This might seem like a basic point, but contract negotiations are extremely complicated. The issues being discussed -- wages, healthcare, work rules, and pensions -- impact a tremendous number of workers and account for billions of dollars, and it takes a lot of time for management and the union to work through the proposals. It's even harder for them to explain things to the media and the public. This all makes it very difficult for either side to speak with authority until a final deal has been reached.

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