Public Unions

SEPTA Union Boss: It's the Job I Wanted Since I Was a Kid


Willie Brown
TWU Local 234

Over the last few months, workers for the Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) have been threatening a strike via the Transit Workers Union (TWU) Local 234. The average TWU member makes $64,847 a year with overtime and they get annual pay raises of 3 percent.

The union is currently demanding lower contributions to pensions and health insurance, because apparently they have not been paying attention to the news around the country.  One of the TWU president's specific gripe is that managers receive three times as much money for their pension contributions as workers. Lowering how much managers get should fix that disparity.

The union voted yesterday to allow its president, Willie Brown, to call a strike at any time. Brown's wanted that job since he was a child, as he told during an interview:

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?

A: A union president. When I was a little boy, a guy took me to a union function; it was a Christmas party. From that point forward, I wanted to be in a union.

Q: So, even before you became a trolley driver for SEPTA, you wanted to be TWU Local 234's leader?

A: Absolutely. I didn't come here to operate a trolley. That was my vehicle to get to the presidency. I wanted to be president from day one.

He also said the strike, which would create a burden for commuting workers throughout the Philadelphia-area and for all classes, is as much for them as it is for the union, because they "face the same issues that we have but have no one to fight for them." He didn't mention any issues and didn't press it.

It seems hard to imagine a better advertisement for "right to work" (broadly, the right to refuse to join a union) than the idea that the well-paid union bosses representing you were never interested in the work you do insomuch as they were interested in "leading" you and enriching themselves in the process.