Strike vote authorized at SEPTA

October 23, 2023

“Our General Chairperson for the SEPTA property, Ray Boyer, served Section 6 Notices on SEPTA well over a year ago. SEPTA management knows full well that SMART-TD’s members are the backbone of the greater Philadelphia area. Our members operate heavy rail, buses, light rail, and trolleys that keep this city moving. They do so in all kinds of weather and through the pandemic, all while assault rates on transit workers are going through the roof. At minimum, SEPTA management should show labor the respect it deserves and negotiate in good faith. Instead, SEPTA refuses to adjust its initial proposals or acknowledge the various packages proposed by SMART-TD. With that, I have authorized a strike vote for our SEPTA passenger service members.” 

SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson

October 23, 2023 

Phone: (216) 228-9400

Fax: (216) 228-0411 


This morning, SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson authorized a strike vote on the Southeastern Philadelphia Transportation Authority (SEPTA). For SMART-TD, this announcement comes after 18 months of contentious negotiations and mediation led by the National Mediation Board.  

General Chairperson Ray Boyer, expressed his disappointment with SEPTA’s bad-faith negotiating: 

“We have proposed several packages to settle this round of bargaining, and SEPTA has not moved one inch from their initial position. Even through mediation, SEPTA refuses to bargain by completely ignoring inflation and labor’s part in keeping the service fluid during the pandemic. CEO Leslie Richards was provided with a four-year contract in May 2023 that included a $75,000 wage increase, bringing her total compensation to $425,000. SEPTA’s board approved her raise after a comprehensive review of compensation for leaders in comparable transit systems. In other words, the board applied a prevailing-wage concept to determine her compensation. SEPTA is completely ignoring the same prevailing-wage concept when it comes to labor, which is hypocrisy. It’s a clear picture of management’s value of its labor force, and SMART-TD is not going to tolerate our voices being ignored any longer. A strike vote must be presented to the members to prepare for further action.” 

TD Vice President Jamie Modesitt stated that SEPTA wages need to be increased to reflect the prevailing wage of the industry and that SEPTA is conveying a “take it, or else” attitude during the bargaining round.

“SEPTA’s passenger rail wages have been deteriorated over the years by SEPTA’s success in convincing Presidential Emergency Boards to withhold general wage increases during the bargaining period and eliminate retroactive wages. This is significant because it has permitted SEPTA to avoid labor wage increases for almost two years during certain bargaining cycles,” Modesitt said. “A 0% wage increase, logically, does not compound, and that has caused SEPTA wages over the past years to drop below the prevailing wage for the passenger rail industry. It is obvious to me that SEPTA hopes to repeat its attack on wages because they have made it clear to us that the PEB is their goal.

“Anyone can review the list of Presidential Emergency Boards and see SEPTA seems to end up there almost every round of bargaining. In short, SEPTA has presented a ‘take it, or else,’ attitude. Even so, SEPTA’s attitude towards labor will eventually cost them greatly when employee wages fall so far below the prevailing wage that employee retention and hiring will come to a standstill. What’s more, the taxpayer will ultimately bear the consequence of SEPTA’s greed when the wages have to be significantly increased to keep commuter trains fully staffed. That’s why this issue has to be corrected in this bargaining round. Make no mistake, SMART TD will utilize every legal resource to aggressively fight this injustice for our members who have sacrificed so much for SEPTA and their communities. This strike vote is the first step of action for our members.” 

As of 10 a.m. local time Oct. 23, voting will be open for SMART-TD members to voice their opinion on whether or not to authorize President Ferguson to call for a work action. This vote will be conducted online through a secure survey service. General Chairperson Ray Boyer of GCA-STA, SMART-TD Local 61 (Philadelphia), will be disseminating information on how to access the voting portal to membership today.   

SMART-TD represents 481 members on SEPTA properties. Results of the strike vote will be announced Nov. 20, 2023, at 2 p.m. local time.  


If you are interested in speaking more about the union’s stance on this issue and its negotiations with management on the SEPTA property, we’d be happy to connect you with: 

SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson  

President Jeremy Ferguson, a member of Local 313 in Grand Rapids, Mich., was elected president of SMART’s Transportation Division in 2019.  

President Ferguson, an Army veteran, started railroading in 1994 as a conductor on CSX at Grand Rapids, Mich., and was promoted to engineer in 1995. Ferguson headed the recent national rail negotiations for the Union with the nation’s rail carriers. 

SMART Transportation Division Vice President Jamie Modesitt 

Modesitt has served as general chairperson on one of the largest rail general committees in the country representing thousands of members consisting of conductors, trainmen, yardmen, passenger conductors, passenger assistant conductors, hostlers, engineer trainees, engineers, trackmen, signalmen, carmen, machinists and locomotive electricians. Modesitt is considered an expert when it comes to Railway Labor Act (RLA) arbitration with experience in well over a thousand cases consisting of discipline cases and agreement rules and was elected vice president in 2019.