LABOR Strike by unionized Pennsylvania turnpike employees possible by Wednesday
If the strike happens, tolls would be reduced or waived.
HARRISBURG (AP) -- The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission on Monday warned holiday travelers of a possible strike Wednesday by toll collectors and other unionized employees on the busiest travel day of the year.
"We expect 650,000 cars and trucks will use the turnpike on the day before Thanksgiving, and we wanted to give travelers advance notice of the chance of a work disruption," Joseph Brimmeier, the turnpike's chief executive officer, said in a statement.
Negotiations between turnpike officials and representatives of its unionized employees have been rocky. The sides last met Nov. 15, but talks quickly broke down over the issue of retroactive pay. In October, the unions said they could strike at any time, without advance notice.
More than 2,000 members of the Teamsters Locals 77 and 250, which represent turnpike toll collectors, maintenance workers and office employees, have been working under the terms of a contract that expired Sept. 30, 2003. Union officials had no comment Monday.
Toll collectors have never walked off the job in the turnpike's 64-year history. A July letter posted on the locals' Web sites indicated that the sticking points included wages, health care, use of supplemental employees and job security.
Turnpike officials have announced a contingency plan under which cash-paying drivers would pay a flat fee of $2 for any trip on the 531-mile highway system. Commercial vehicles would pay a flat fee of $15.
Passenger and commercial vehicles using the E-ZPass automatic toll-collection system would pay the standard toll if it is lower than the flat fee.
Nonunion employees also have been trained to staff toll booths and are on stand-by. During any lag time between the beginning of a strike and the arrival of the nonunion employees, "it would be safe to say tolls would not be collected," turnpike spokeswoman Kathy Liebler said.
The commission may also waive tolls at interchanges that experience high traffic congestion or safety problems, Liebler said.