Bus driver layoffs: "One true doomsday scenario"?

The CTA has sent layoff notices to almost 2,000 bus drivers and other union workers, the Sun-Times reports.

And the union leader predicts the layoffs are the "one true doomsday scenario." I guess that's another way for him to say the union won't be coming to the negotiating table.

Union president Darrel Jefferson did say he thought upper management was "more than top heavy" in calling for eliminating creative management positioning.

The CTA shot back that the non-union workforce has been cut by 19% in the last two years, while the union workforce has dropped just 1% in the same time frame.

The union will have none of it:

"They want to mimic what City Hall did with the unions -- the furlough
days, the unpaid vacations and holidays, things of that nature," said
Jefferson, president of the bus driver and mechanic's union,
which is expected to bear the brunt of the layoffs. "We're not open to


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  • Thats freakin scary dude! So much for the economy getting better!


  • This is why government organizations fail or are full of inefficiencies. When times are better, government bulks up on people and facilities that require ongoing expenses to sustain. Then when times get lean, they cry about funding. Then government officials divert other tax money into the program.

    An organization like the CTA needs to be run like a business to be able to survive. You can't pay $60 - 80k (plus generous benefits) for a bus driver with a HS diploma or less to drive up and down the street. No business would be able to survive that kind of labor cost. In addition by nature, the business isn't scalable. When tax revenue goes down, the CTA can't take steps to match their expenses with their revenues. Labor contracts that were put in place during better economic times cannot be modified. Most of the facilities are fixed in nature (you can't make a bus or station disappear because funding levels decline). You have variable cashflows trying to sustain fixed expenses.
    The CTA has to be very careful with their pricing. They can't price whatever they want. In the short run, people will absorb a $3 fare because they have no choice (don't own a car). But in the longer run, people change their behavior in their own self-interest. As it is now, if I'm going to dinner or a show with a group of friends (5), its cheaper to drive downtown than to take the CTA. Think $2.25 to DT each and $2.25 back. I think I can pay for gas and parking for $22.50 for a 2 hour event. Riders have already been lost and if it goes to $3, the total transportation cost for our group becomes $30 which is easily more expensive than public transit. Once people change their behavior, its very difficult to change it back even if you correct the imbalance.
    There's fundamental cost problems in our government entities. Until you deal with these very basic problems, you'll see this problems over, and over, and over. Good economic times (with the flush coffers they bring) hides a great deal of inefficiency... when things tighten up, however, those problems become glaring. That's what we now see.

  • In reply to sniksich:

    Try a little truth, Drivers max salary is 27.00 per hour or 55,888 yearly.

  • In reply to leobaz:

    There's publically available information out there that refutes this. I'd post the link but in the database that I used you have to search by name. I'd rather not pinpoint an individual (friend or family member) as an example on a public board but I'm sure if you type in some common last names you'll run across one. I'll be honest that I don't know the ins and outs of the union contract and how people exceed the 'max' but I can tell you that several of the people I looked it did easily exceed $55k. You might be able to help with the info you have?

  • In reply to sniksich:

    I think that most would agree that $60 - 80k goes beyond 'livable wage'. Its not going to make you 'rich' by any means, but it is better than 'livable wage' for sure.

    Lots of people in the city are 'living' at 40k to 50k (or less) just fine and some of these have specialized training. This isn't about being 'better' than anyone else. Its about the pool of people that can perform the job. I personally don't think that a brain surgeon is 'better' than I am but they definitely have a specialized skill that I don't have, have put in years of training and sacrifice, and deserve to be paid more than the $$$ I make.

    James... some jobs require different kinds of stresses or annoyances. This doesn't (unfortunately) equate to higher levels of pay. An exterminator that deals with roaches, rats, or other such things for the most part makes much less than you or I would want to if we did it. Cab drivers who have weekend amateur drinkers throwing up in their cabs don't get paid for such annoyances. CNAs (certified employees) deal with people in nursing homes who can't control their bladders or bowels. They aren't paid for that. I work with the public and deal with people who ALL think that something is owed to them. I don't get paid for that either. Its one of those annoyances of the job that we all have to deal with. Some things that I find annoying or stressful others can tolerate much better than I can also. Everyone wants to make $$$... and more $$$$. But the reality is that not everyone will become a millionaire. Not everyone will have everthing that they want. Your personal budget is the attempt to allocate scarce resources (your income) over your needs and wants. For the vast majority of us, the fact of life is that not all of our wants are met.

    I've been a college grad (put my life on hold for years to get my degree and make just a few thousand a year, invested $$$ in my education, etc). I'd LOVE to make $80k. Lots of teachers would also. So would lots of social workers, psychologists, etc. All of them have special skills that aren't very prevalent in the general population. All of these work with difficult customers in some difficult areas. I'm not engaging in class envy here. I'm not jealous of those who make more than I do. BUT, I can see why the CTA budget is out of whack when their labor costs for some of their staff doesn't match realities of the marketplace. Like I said, the CTA doesn't have a bottomless pit of money. Eventually, their riders are going to change their behavior and habits to minimize their costs and the taxpayers are going to say 'No'. Where will the drivers and employees be at that point? If the market values their services so highly, where else will they go and get a job for $80k with their skills?

  • In reply to sniksich:

    The people who are going to be laid off make nowhere near $60-80grand a year.

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    It is probably more than what they will make on unemployment compensation.

  • In reply to sniksich:

    So somehow that $55,000 and some change has gone to $80,000 a year. Okay then.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    The salaries are public information. There's databases online that you can use to look it up. I think the Sun-Times had one a while back. $80k is toward the top of the scale (a couple of years ago) but the point is the same. I also know exactly what some of the people that I looked up do because I know them personally. How many people do you know that retire never having made $80k that have skills that go beyond that of a bus driver? Add to the $80k the benefit packages that generally are not as lucrative in private industry (where you can't just ask the tax payers for a subsidy).

    You have to take emotion out of public policy discussions and look at the facts. If I was a bus drive I'd want every $$$ I could get also. But in the bigger picture where revenues have to meet expenses this you have to balance both sides.

  • In reply to sniksich:

    If being a bus driver is so easy, and you greatly envy the mountains of money you think they make. Why aren't you a bus driver?

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    I have no end of respect for bus drivers (operators?). I am a counselor at one of the least desirable high schools CPS has to offer and I think I have an easier job than a CTA bus driver. After a few years of riding daily, I am amazed at the crap bus drivers have to deal with. At least at my job when my customer base is obnoxious, I don't have to guide a 40 or 60-foot bus down city streets and deal with more dysfunction from motorists. Peace be with you, CTA bus drivers!!!!

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    If the CTA assigned unpaid time off to 100% of the drivers, then 100% of the drivers are angry. But if the CTA lays off 10% and allows the 90% to work full time then you have a 10% group that are absent from the company and likely absent from the union as well.

    Although it might be better to reduce the work of the 100% it causes the CTA and the union less grief to do a layoff instead.

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    Your assessment, SweeoOldBob, ignores the possibility that CTA management and the unions are made up of people who are compassionate human beings and would look for alternatives to laying off people in this terrible economy. Yes, a government agency must save money wherever it can, but if the same amount can be saved with furlough days as layoffs, the furloughs would spare some of their co-workers from the huge burden of unemployment--and save us from having to fund any unemployment insurance, food stamps or other charitable aid a family with an unemployed breadwinner might need.

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    I'm also astounded by the hypocrisy of the union management that they would prefer 10% of workers to completely lose their jobs than for all workers to make a small sacrifice. They claim to stand for solidarity but, pardon the expression, are perfectly willing to throw their fellow workers under the bus over a pittance.

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    sniksich, you've made a very strong case thruout this entire thread that most people doing socially useful work are underpaid. What you haven't shown at all is that CTA workers are overpaid.

    For the last generation free-market ideologues have convinced us to turn dissatisfaction with a stagnating standard of living against the poor and the unionized, distracting attention from the massive transfers of social wealth to the rich. There is no economic law that says the unskilled must be poorly paid. In the '50s and '60s, when unions and govt regulation were strong, incomes of all classes rose at the same rate, unemployment was lower than it has been for the last 30 years, there was substantial progress made eliminating poverty - and growth rates were higher than under free market reform! The economic crisis should have taught us something that was clear all along to those with any historical memory: neoliberalism is a dead end.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    I can believe it. Since the drivers are paid hourly, they would probably be eligible for overtime pay. Someone making $27 an hour could make that by working 10-12 hours a week overtime.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    You don't layoff POLICE cause they protect the city or FIREFIGHTERS cause they put out fire or TRANSIT OPERATORS cause they keep the city moving

  • In reply to hedmond33:

    But I guess Rich Rodriguez does. Today's President's report says that one of the cutbacks is that the service standard for an off peak bus goes up from 40 to 60 passengers. So, the city keeps moving, just 1/3 as frequently as it did.

  • The other question (and I'm not an anti-labor guy as long as you're getting comparable performance) is what these expensive labor contracts are getting you? Labor likes to boast that their service or quality is better than non-union employees. I find it hard to believe that you wouldn't find comparable, cheaper options for labor that wouldn't scowl when you get on the bus, slam on the breaks at each stop throwing standing passengers into each other, or come to the aid of a passenger in distress (this isn't even counting the one-offs of drivers sneaking a smoke, talking to their girlfriends or boyfriends, or using a cell phone which I'm thinking doesn't happen really all that often). If you're going to pay your employees $60 - 80k (plus generous benefits, which is a lot of money for most of us) shouldn't they act like $60 - 80k employees and not act as though their 'customers' are a necessary evil?

  • I still don't understand the concept that just because it doesn't take a college education to drive a bus that bus drivers who take our lives into their hands every day don't deserve to make a livable wage.

    I also wonder what routes the people ride who complain about surly rude incompetent cellphone-using bus drivers, because I don't seem to ride the same buses. I'd like to know which routes these are so I can continue to avoid them.

  • In reply to Cheryl:


    It's the individual drivers, not necessarily the routes. I ride the buses and trains everywhere. Just off the top of my head, I've had poor service experiences on the Clark bus (#22), the Milwaukee bus (#56), the Lincoln bus (#11), the LaSalle bus, the King Drive bus (#6), the State St. bus, the Grand Ave bus, and the Madison Bus (#20). I've also been on all of these buses and had good drivers.

    If you're honestly telling me there aren't some bad CTA bus drivers, you're not spending enough time on the busses. That isn't to say all are bad, but don't be ridiculous.

  • @CHERYL: then you are blind. I have taken pictures of drivers falling asleep at stop lights, had more than one time when a drive was on their cell, and plenty of times when the driver is rude to anyone and everyone!

    but CTA needs to focus more their funds available to security. the general cta staff does not care about safety.

    i anm finally pleased that the cta is laying them off!

  • In reply to jerjer:

    I'm not blind. I just don't think I'm better than most people.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    I guess I'm not glad they are being laid off. That's traumatic for anyone and anyone's family. Especially in this economy. My company has gone through many rounds and I wouldn't wish it on people I don't like! Unfortunately they way I'm sure they will do it, however, is by seniority. So you might have some really crappy drivers (bad attitude, dangerous, rude, whatever) that are kept because they've been there long enough versus someone who takes pride in their work, makes our dreary commute less stressful, and isn't afraid to smile. I know that with our company the folks that got laid off were the lower performers. The result was a stronger organization. With the CTA, performance probably isn't going to be the main factor.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    I love you Cheryl!!

    Not all of us are bad! There are some bad apples in CTA but you will find that in every organization.

    And if they lay off drivers, YOU WILL WAIT LONGER FOR BUSES! LOL

  • In reply to jerjer:

    Bus drivers probably make so much because they have to deal with the stress of jerk divers,jerk cyclists, jerk pedestrians and jerk passengers.Hanging around with jerks can turn you into one ,too.Seriously,would you want their job?

  • In reply to JamesReyes:

    Thanks James, nice to know there are people out there that understand what we have to put up with.

  • In reply to JamesReyes:

    Speaking of jerk divers, about a year ago I saw someone get on the train with his scuba equipment and took up an extra seat with it. Divers really should put their gear on the floor. It was crazy!

  • In reply to eBob:

    Ha! Nice one Bob.

    I have no doubt (and I have witnessed) bus drivers, train operators, clerks, and security dealing with some people who are just self-centered idiots. But don't most of us have to deal with that in our own jobs? None of us have the market cornered in dealing with difficult people. I think if you ask the majority of us if we make enough to deal with all that we have to deal with, most of us would want more money.

  • In reply to JamesReyes:

    Oh, please. Almost any job that interacts with customers requires you to deal with jerks. Imagine anyone who works at the customer service desk, help desk, waiting tables, etc. They all have to deal with nice customers and jerks. If you don't want that job, then don't take it. Don't think bus drivers are the only ones who have to deal with jerk customers. It is not ok to become a jerk themselves, do you think a waitress will keep her job if she snaps back at a customer? If you can't deal with it, find another job.

  • In reply to jerjer:

    Perfect example of what CTA operators have to put up with people like this if you got pictures PROVE IT post it so we all can see if your not lying. This is not all there are many out here that hate everything about life and just want tro smell up the place

  • In reply to jerjer:

    Hopefully CTA and the union will come to a suitable agreement cause CTA keep this CITY MOVING, cause if not, there will be more traffic delays with more people driving their cars trying to get to their jobs or wherever on time, buses and trains will be loaded to capacity before it passes two stops and unable to pickup others, also buses stuck in traffic with nowhere to go, and fares will be a lot higher and the people will still be riding free and next year it will be more of the same. CTA don't need 1500 managers and supervisor making 90-125 thousand dollars a year with the technology that's available today. Hopefully the Mayor will not let Chicago come to a STAND STILL. Tell Mr President that them operators earn every penny that CTA pays them and more, for what they have to put up with and the responsibility that the job carries look at the waste at the top not the employees the make easy for me to get to work.

  • Sure companies have to make a profit. But then they have to use that profit to improve the company, not just turn it over to the stockholders.

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