Thanksgiving strike possible on Pennsylvania Turnpike

| Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Pennsylvania Turnpike officials are warning all highway users that the road’s toll takers and other union workers may go on strike Wednesday, Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving.

That is the single busiest travel day on the turnpike.

“We do not want to cause alarm, but all indications are that the union may be considering some type of a labor action on Wednesday,” Turnpike CEO Joe Brimmeier said in a prepared statement. “We expect 650,000 cars and trucks will use the Turnpike on the day before Thanksgiving, and we wanted to give travelers advanced notice of the chance of a work disruption.”

Turnpike officials have been warning for some time that a strike could occur. Talks broke down Nov. 15 over the issue of retroactive pay. The contract expired Sept. 30, 2003, but union workers have worked under its terms more than a year while negotiations continued.

If a strike did occur, it could include roughly 2,000 workers, including toll collectors and maintenance workers.

No new talks are scheduled at this time.

Negotiations between turnpike officials and the Teamsters union – which represents the toll takers and maintenance workers – broke down previously in late October. The Teamsters informed state officials at that time that the union would reserve the right to call a strike at any time after that point without notice.

The Turnpike CEO said in October that the agency was ready to run the road should a strike occur. Non-union employees are on standby.

Turnpike officials have said that in the event of a strike, passenger vehicles would pay a flat toll of $2, and trucks would pay a flat toll of $15, regardless of the distance they travel on the road. E-ZPass customers whose fares would normally be less than those amounts will pay the smaller of the two charges.

No tolls would be collected in some locations – such as the Clarks Summit and Keyser Avenue interchanges on the Northeast Extension – The Scranton Times Tribune reported.

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