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Local 234 transit union president, Willie Brown, delivers a public update.Photo credit: Transport Workers Union Local 234
Local 234 transit union president, Willie Brown, delivers a public update.Photo credit: Transport Workers Union Local 234

SEPTA's union president, Willie Brown, accepts a national position

The long-time local union leader surrenders his role to go mediate transit systems across the nation.

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"The Lincoln Lawyer"

May 20th, 2022

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It’s not uncommon to see local union leadership transition out to step into national roles. But when they fill a position for over a decade, like Willie Brown, it creates a memorable moment.

Brown, a former trolley operator in 1987 and West Philadelphia native, announced Wednesday, Dec. 15, that he will be leaving the Transport Workers Union Local 234 for a position as the director of the Transit, Universities, Utilities, and Services Division. 

He previously told WHYY about the decision on Oct. 29, after leading Local 234 as president since 2008. Brian Pollitt, who serves as the executive vice president, will assume the role until a formal vote is held next fall.

On a national level, Brown will have the opportunity to use his gritty reputation to negotiate transit contracts for multiple local chapters, including Local 234.

His latest achievement was helping union workers avoid another strike in October that caused concern for schools and commuters.

The new contract settlement included pandemic hazard pay, annual raises, and parental leave for SEPTA union members. 

Some of Brown’s most notable work was during the strikes of 2009 and 2016, where he displayed tough determination by ordering the union to hold its ground for a week until negotiations were finalized between SEPTA.

The Transport Workers Union of America, based in Washington, D.C., is where Brown will take up his new post as director. He will be responsible for the union’s largest division, which represents workers at transit authorities in New York, San Francisco, Houston, Philadelphia, and many other cities.

Brown was elected by the national transit union in September, but wanted to finish his work as Local 234 president on a high note.

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