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Obama intervenes in Philadelphia SEPTA rail strike

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President Barack Obama intervened Saturday in Philadelphia’s rail strike, signing an executive order that puts union workers back on the job while they continuing negotiating with a regional transportation authority.

The order calls for the creation of a Presidential Emergency Board to mediate the differences between the workers and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, putting the roughly 450 employees back to work on Sunday morning.

The employees are covered under the Railway Labor Act, which means a federal mediation board may intervene to work with the parties to resolve contract disputes.

Under the order, the board has 30 days to make recommendations to end the dispute. Obama issued the order at the request of Gov. Tom Corbett.

“It is imperative that parties continue to work toward an agreement for the benefit of the tens of thousands of people who use SEPTA rail every day,” Corbett said in a written statement.

The dispute between the engineers and electrician unions and SEPTA revolves around pay raises and pensions.

The strike affected 13 lines that serve the suburbs and the Philadelphia International Airport, officials said.

It includes engineers who drive or operate the commuter rail lines, said Jerri Williams, spokeswoman for the transportation Authority.

The lines affected carry about 60,000 commuters daily, which is 10% of the total ridership in the Philadelphia area, she said.

“As long as these workers show up for their regularly scheduled Sunday shifts, regional rail service will be restored to full Sunday operations in the morning,” Williams said.