Willie Brown, Leader of SEPTA’s Largest Union, Leaves for New Job at
International Union Brian Pollitt Becomes President of TWU Local 234
PHILADELPHIA – This week, Willie Brown, the president of Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 234, resigned his position as the leader of SEPTA’s largest union to become the head of the Transport Workers Union of America’s Transit, Universities, Utilities and Services Division. Brian Pollitt, the local union’s elected executive vice president who was instrumental in guiding the recent negotiations with the transit authority, is now the powerful union’s new president.
A Philadelphia native, Brown began his career with SEPTA as a trolley operator in 1987. He was first elected president in 2008. Known for being a tough negotiator at the bargaining table and going toe-to-toe with the transit authority, Brown led strikes in 2009 and 2016 that shut down public transit. Last year, when SEPTA failed to provide adequate personal protection equipment for frontline transit workers threatened by exposure to Covid-19, he warned of the possibility of another “job action” unless the transit agency immediately took steps to better protect SEPTA workers. Conditions improved.
Under Brown’s leadership, TWU members received raises, bonuses, improvements in pensions, and additional holidays. The most recent contract, ratified last month, contained hazard pay and paid parental leave, in addition to wage increases. Notably it also did not include concessions in healthcare benefits or seniority rights.
Brian Pollitt was instrumental in securing an agreement with SEPTA in this year’s contract talks and has been at the bargaining table for previous contract talks over the past 20 years. According to the union’s constitution, he automatically assumes the position of president for the remainder of the term which expires in the fall of 2022.
Pollitt, who also was born and raised in Philadelphia, began his career with SEPTA in 1990 as a bus operator. He has worked closely with Brown over the years, understands the inner workings of SEPTA, and is well known to the union’s membership.
The new president is already preparing for the next round of contract talks which are less than two years away. “The first order of business is to bring us together,” said Pollitt. “My goal is to build solidarity now and maintain it as we make our way through this pandemic and onto the next round of bargaining.”
Brown will be based at the international union’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. In his new capacity he will be responsible for the union’s largest division, which represents workers at transit authorities in New York, San Francisco, Houston and other cities, including Philadelphia. In remarks to the union’s executive council last Friday, he said, “Whenever you guys call, I will be there.”
TWU Local 234 represents more than 5,000 workers at SEPTA.