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SEPTA and Westrock Container Plant Employees Describe Horrendous and Unsafe Working Conditions

This week, we received an unsigned letter purportedly from Philadelphia transit workers who describe horrendous working conditions. The letter claims buses and trains are unsafe and unsanitary, and that operators are subject to harassment and violence, including female bus drivers on overnight shifts who are who are left defenseless when patrons expose themselves.

The letter from the Southeastern Philadelphia Transportation Authority (SEPTA) employees ends: “PLEASE HELP US!”

Unfortunately, without more details on who sent the letter, or whether they’ve tried to work with their workplace union, there is little we can do beyond trying to bring attention to their concerns. If things are as bad as they say, their union is likely aware of the problems – so why are these workers contacting us instead of their union?

Here at Americans for Fair Treatment, we get calls, emails, and letters every day asking for help from people who don’t feel their union is helping them. This might be surprising for some people to hear, because they assume unions make things better for workers.

For several months now, we’ve also received multiple copies of the same letter from someone at the Westrock Container Plant asking for assistance because their union is not responsive to them when they ask for help or information.

The letters are unsigned and do not have any contact information, and so there is little we can do to help them. We did send the letter to several local elected officials and the local newspaper, but we did not hear back. We hear your frustration. Employees at the Westrock Container Plant and SEPTA can call us anonymously at anytime. We can offer assistance over the phone.

What’s surprising is that these employees feel scared to speak up publicly, so they write to us anonymously. Imagine being so scared of the people who are supposed to help you that you feel like you can’t even ask for help?

This raises the question: What can you do when your union is ignoring you or providing bad representation?

Call us. We can help you understand your rights. 833-969-FAIR (3247). We will protect your personal information and will not share it without your permission. We have lawyers on staff who can talk through these issues with you. If we can’t help, we can help you find someone who can.

Brigette Herbst

Brigette Herbst is the Senior Organizing Director of Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2018, Brigette’s career included working in the public sector for New York State, teaching elementary school, coaching high school sports, and working as a municipal county employee. This unique experience offers Brigette an inside perspective on public employee culture in New York. She focuses on educating New Yorkers about their constitutional rights with regard to union membership and promoting fair treatment of workers. Brigette has her bachelor’s degree in history and politics and her master’s degree in elementary education. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and planning trips for her family.