Budget cuts faceoff: Comparing CTA, union plans to lower costs, restore service cuts

Union proposal relies on wage cuts for 2011-13 to balance 2010 budget; huh?

The Tribune and other media outlets yesterday published plans submitted by two CTA unions and CTA management to lower operating costs and possibly end the reduced service that went into effect Sunday.

The proposed cuts from the CTA would affect only union bus and train operators, while the union plan also includes eliminating some management positions.

Here is the CTA proposal, according to the Chicago Tribune:

CTA proposal
2010 wage
Health care
No holiday
pay for STO*
No holiday
pay for non-STO*
weekly pay guarantee
Eliminate pay
guarantee for show-up
vacation days by one day
holiday premium
on rail
paid lunch on owl runs
storeroom clerk
Total  $76.3

Note: An STO is a job classification that includes bus operators, motormen and customer assistants.

And here’s the union’s plan:

Wage deferment for 2013 $30.0
Wage deferment for 2012 $25.0
Ten-day furlough for all employees $20.0
Wage deferment for half of 2011 $12.0
Eliminate management positions (bus operations signout and post
supervisors, instructors and clerks)
Eliminate management positions (garage assistant foremen  positions) $1.2
Total $90.6

A CTA spokesperson said they finally saw the unions’ plan in its entirety for the first time Tuesday in the press.
The union had never shared all these details with them, she said. Hmmm,
and here we thought the unions had been negotiating in good faith all

First note: as I’ve asked here before: How can the union
expect to cover expenses incurred this year with cuts to expenses that
won’t be incurred until 2011, 2012 and 2013? I mean really, what are
they smoking?

When I asked the CTA about the 2011-13 wage
deferral ideas, they were kinder than me. A spokesperson said: “To
restore service we would need to find savings in 2010. We’re not sure
how foregoing wage increases in 2011 and beyond would accomplish that,
so we are anxious to talk to the unions about their ideas.”

note: The current contract runs through 2011, so the unions may be
assuming deferral of wage increases that haven’t even been negotiated.

Question for the CTA: How could you get talked into paying $1 million for employee lunches on owl runs? To you Tattler readers working the overnight shift: Does your employer buy your lunch? Right. Didn’t think so. Cut that $1 million, please.
As for eliminating management positions, a source told me Tuesday that 10 management staff — most were 30-plus years on the job — were laid off. A few of them were in rail management. I’m trying to confirm that. More later.

in the final analysis, the CTA’s proposal seems the most realistic and doable — but only if the union agrees, of course. On the union plan, by the time you take out the $67 million in future possible wage deferrals, you’re left with $20 million in furlough days this year, and maybe $3.6 million in management layoffs. So, that might get us some or all of the express buses back.

That’s not enough.

Unions, please try to think about your clients — your passengers — and your fellow laid-off union members, and think harder about accepting the CTA’s plan.


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  • Darrell is all about eliminating jobs (not his, of course) but don't BY GOD don't take away their 3AM tea.

    (I know...completely out of context...sorta...but not really.)

  • I get that the unions and their workers don't want to give anything up - no one does. But compromises have to be made across the board.

    Not noted here is that CTA management - and all other non-union employees (not everyone at 567 Lake is management)- already took (starting last year) many of the cuts that they are asking the unions to take - and more.
    - six unpaid holidays
    - eight to 12 unpaid furlough days
    - 3.5% increased contribution to the pension fund
    - increased contribution to the health care trust
    - no increase in pay for the last four years (no 3-3.5% increases for this year and the last two years that the ATU unions received.)

    And non-union unpaid days and increased deductions take place now - in time to help the budget - not two or three years in the future.

  • Also, for clarification, and to be fair to the unions, I believe the reference to "eliminating paid lunch on owl runs" probably refers to the paid 30 minute lunch period - not actual food. That might be a perk they gave to folks who worked the overnight owl runs - and it's probably time to give that up.

    This is just my opinion from a balanced reading of the proposal. I don't have first-hand knowledge of that, but I bet Kevin could get a clarification if he asked the CTA.

  • The issue basically is that Darrell tried to fool his membership and the media two weeks ago by saying that the union was offering as much as the CTA wanted. Apparently Rodriguez was right that the union hadn't put its proposal on the table.

    In that you say that most of the deferrals are after this contract expires, he is being consistent with his statement that we are here to defend the contract.

    Maybe he is like Quinn and thinks that the CTA can bond out the 2012, 2013 savings. Quinn got away with it on the "I gave the RTA money to save the poor who have to get to work from fare hikes" platform.

    Since Quinn did nothing to save union jobs, and one of the union's points was that Free Rides For Seniors must be repealed, but Quinn said that he did not support that, since Free Rides is good social policy, does the ATU endorse Brady or Dillard (whoever happens to turn out to be the candidate) in the November election? You said that the Republicans don't give a sh-- about transit, but Quinn, while claiming to do so, pretty much assured that there won't be a bus onto which to squeeze (the service cutbacks combined with no capital bill money actually materializing for replacement buses). In fact, the people at chicagobus.org state that equipment is so tight, CTA is putting 30 foot Optima buses on heavy routes like Belmont and Addison. Happy riding, Quinn voters.

  • In reply to jack:

    Rereading the message at chicagobus.org, I should have said Irving Park instead of Belmont. Never misquote.

  • In reply to jack:

    No word yet on how savings next year fixes the budget this year from the Union I see... After all that stink about extra management, eliminating those jobs saves only $3.6 million. Not that much, considering the amounts next to most line items they published.

    Anyone know what these line items are exactly?

    No holiday pay for non-STO* $6.7
    Eliminate weekly pay guarantee $3.5
    Eliminate pay guarantee for show-up $3.0
    Eliminate holiday premium $2.5

    I have some guesses about some, but what is this pay guarantee stuff??? I assume the holiday stuff is referring to time and a half pay for working on a holiday or something similar.

  • In reply to chris:

    According to drivers on chicagobus.org, a full time operator can pick, say, somewhere between 38 and 43 hours of work. If the full time picks 38, he or she is guaranteed 40. If the driver works more than 8 hours a day, or 40 hours a week, he or she gets overtime. Federal law only mandates overtime only for over 40 hours a week.

    Part time operators are limited to picking 30 hours per week, according to them.

    The STO (standard time operator?) must be to distinguish from the PTO (part time operator) for this purpose.

    Generally, in industry, you get paid your full day if you show up for work as assigned, even if there is no work. Similarly, in industry, holiday premium is that you get 2.5 days pay for working a holiday--one for the holiday you couldn't enjoy, and 1.5 for supposedly working "overtime" by being there on the holiday.

    I can only speak as to the sources noted above, and if an actual driver can give better details, please do.

  • In reply to jack:

    Seems like they could save some money by eliminating overtime pay for more than 8 hours, if that is actually the case. Only pay overtime for more than 40 hours per week.

    That seems odd that a person could choose to work 38 hours and get paid 40 every week. If they choose less than 40, and actually work less than 40, then their paycheck should reflect that. Paying people not to work is not a good system.

    I don't have a problem with paying people if they show up and there is no work though. In that case, they should better calculate staffing levels of PTO and STO operators.

  • In reply to chris:

    Of course. One thing they did try a couple of years ago was "rostering," which meant that drivers at NP and 74th were only allowed to pick a single block of work that paid 40 hours and no overtime except for work in excess of 40. Again, according to the drivers, the block picks still remain, but the requirement that an entire garage be on a block pick system (or "rostered") was successfully fought by the unions.

  • In reply to jack:


    I don't think CTA is buying lunch for owl shifts, I think that refers to paying them for the 30 minute break they receive.

  • In reply to chris:

    Bus operators who work night owls are paid to babysit cta's buses while on their lunchbreaks so cta doesn't have to have to pay for someone else to come out and relieve those operator at those late hours so they can go on their lunch. Its been viewed as cost savings for many years.

  • In reply to chris:

    This is unnecessary. The way to fix the shortfall, as discussed on the old site for years, is to bring funding on par with that of other cities' transit systems from state, county, and local governments, using sources that aren't pegged to the economy such as real estate transfer taxes but line items that recognize the place public transit has in the life of a city and its suburbs.

    Any discussion of anything else is counterproductive.

    And with the CTA successfully having moved discussion of the funding shortfall from "the union should contribute" -- I believe the CTA's original request was on the order of a still-too-large $30 million -- to "it's all the unions' fault" and insistence that they make up the full $95 million -- things will never get better here.

    I'm glad the union has dug in its heels but frustrated that it's communicating these points barely if at all. Service during rush hour is not as good as it was by any stretch, but it also isn't as bad as the CTA has gotten in my 12 years here, and I'm content with the current levels if they protect the unions.

  • In reply to BobS:

    As I said to others here before, you seem to recognize that funding=taxes, but you haven't said what taxes you are willing to pay, nor which ones are "recession proof."

    People are already complaining about property taxes and foreclosures.

    The state isn't getting by on the income tax it now has. By definition, incomes aren't recession proof.

    Kelly suggested a gas tax. Now, if it were on a percentage basis, like the sales tax on gas, it would have plummeted when gas prices went from $4.69 to $1.69, and certainly wouldn't have recovered even though gas is now about $2.79. If on a gallonage basis, it would not have brought in much when gas was $4.69.

    I mentioned a couple of days ago that those now crying for funding forgot the 2008 tax increases. Again, you don't seem to be in that boat, but you don't seem much different.

  • In reply to jack:

    If nothing else, jack, I'm willing to acknowledge that I don't have the big picture. Fixing the funding for the CTA doesn't happen in a vacuum; money doesn't just appear. It moves from one place to another. A huge number of constituencies has many needs, some more urgent, some less, some more easily postponed, some that are overdue. Almost none of the discussion of CTA funding on this site acknowledges that, with the mooing herds instead whining about how the union could solve everything. It can't and it shouldn't, but that should be beside the point. If you're looking to micro-level solutions from strangers on the Internet, you'll never be happy. I understand the larger issues, but -- as you seem to begin to understand -- don't see where you, I, or anyone here should even have an opinion of where these changes come from and where they go. We're all just self-appointed pundits, and I for one am willing to say there are people who know more about sources of funding than I do, who could put together enough money to restore or reduce the cuts if they cared to, because that's their job, not mine, yours, or anyone else's here.

  • In reply to BobS:

    Fair enough, but supposedly Carole Brown was one of those "experts" and she was the one that embraced the RTA's study recommendation of the RETT. So, I wouldn't yield to experts of her caliber.

    Unlike some, I'm not saying that the union should give back. I know that it can't be made to, and that now that 11% of its members have hit the bricks, the other 89% have no incentive to give back.

    My quarrel has been with those who have been bleating for "funding" since 2005, but don't have the answers, as well as people like Quinn who "solve" the immediate problem by putting the state and its subordinate government bodies further in hock.

    My political quarrel is that so long as Illinois discourages private enterprise that could "increase the pie" of income and sales tax generation, it is just going to get worse, and the state cannot tax it way out of that by saying that transit, social services providers, schools, and basically any state agency that can't get its costs under control need more "funding." So long as these groups think they have an unlimited pot, wastes like Block 37, the fuel hedge, and the NABI fiasco will continue. Maybe a taste of "doomsday" will finally force some realistic thinking.

  • In reply to jack:

    In fairness here, it sounds like you have what you call "political quarrels" that you're projecting onto me. For instance, I never mentioned Carole Brown, and frankly my entire point is that dragging any one person out, or pointing to any one source as a problem *or* a solution, is counterproductive and short-sighted.

    As I said before, you're a stranger on the Internet, and I have no interest in poring over line items in the state budget so you'll think I "have the answers."

  • In reply to BobS:

    I know you never mentioned Carole Brown, but you did mention "experts." In that you did not mention what experts you expect to solve this budget mess that you claim is solvable, I am withholding embracing the suggestion to defer to them.

    Also, the people poring over the budgets should be the people elected or appointed to the various government offices. I'm just pointing out that they appear, up to now, to be fairly negligent in that regard, and maybe a little bit of doomsday might put more reality into that task.

    For instance, looking at the CTA Board Agenda for today, apparently the CTA authorized $550 million in bonds to pay for the 406 L cars, to be covered by its "sales tax receipt fund." I admit that I don't know what is going on, but if sales tax receipts are now so bad that service can't be maintained, how can they be pledged to those bonds?


    I know you'll say you don't have the answer to that, but we better hope someone at the CTA does. More than likely, though, they don't.

  • In reply to BobS:

    Or maybe I shouldn't have used the word "experts" to digest your phrase of "people who know more about sources of funding than I do, who could put together enough money to restore or reduce the cuts if they cared to." However, not much difference.

  • In reply to jack:

    >Now that 11% of its members have hit the bricks, the other 89% have no incentive to give back.

    There is an incentive. The laid-off folks are a pool of hundreds of people trained as CTA drivers who've proven they're willing to work for less than the senior people who kept their jobs - because they were actually getting less. Then, they got an object lesson in union solidarity when the union sacrificed them on the altar of $60k/year with pension, 38 hour weeks paid at 40, etc.

    When contract negotiation time comes up, that's a huge thing - having them on the outside of the union looking enviously in, rather than on the inside scoffing outwards. I don't know that any city mayor would ever see it as politically advisable to truly fight the union, a la Reagan. But the union heads have to have that in the back of their minds -- if we ever did strike, management has a large pool of people who could drive on a moment's notice. If I'm the union, I want those guys back on my side. Maybe the average driver looking that far down the street. But if the union bosses aren't, they could find themselves out even colder than the guys they just sacrificed.

  • In reply to BobS:

    The gaping hole in your argument is the fact that this year's budget hole was not $95 million - in fact, it was $300 million. $200 million of the funding shortfall was dealt with before going to the unions to ask for concessions.

    So yes, not fixing the $95 million shortfall, resulting in necessary service cuts? It's as close to 100% the unions fault as possible, considering fare increases were off the table as part of first solving 2/3 of the $300 million problem.

  • In reply to vivalfuego:

    And you say $30 million is too much to ask from the unions. I can only interpret this to mean that people responsible for approximately 65% of CTA's operating budget expenditures are only expected to bear 10% of fixing an operating budget shortfall?

  • Forbes thinks Illinois is worse off than CA, which actually was sending out IOUs to people and companies it owed money? Not that being 49th worst state is any better, but still...

  • Relieve them on the route or babysit the bus? Those are 2 different things, but you mentioned both in your statement.

    I'm pretty sure you could find someone to "babysit a bus" for less than $28/hour. Or get some sort of locking mechanism, like nearly every vehicle in America has.

  • In reply to chris:

    It probably is a bigger problem than you think. If, say, someone is out to lunch at the X4's terminal at 63rd and Cottage, I don't think you want to leave the bus unattended.

    The two things hksaid are consistent; if the driver is relieved to go somewhere else for lunch, someone has to watch the bus. It isn't a normal daytime street relief situation where one driver hops off and another hops on to continue the trip (such as at Foster and Sheridan).

  • In reply to chris:

    I hate to say this, but the abject, dangerous, uncomfortable and unsanitary condition of the CTA and the childishness of the politicians and the intransigence of the unions has pushed me over the edge; both the unions and public ownership are getting in the way of having good transit in Chicago. Let's outsource it. We can have First Group or Serco or some other private operator with transit experience run the service under contract. They can deal with the unions -- or go non-union. They can run clean trains, and keep up with basic maintenance on them so that they don't clank or ride poorly. They can start afresh, and they can realistically budget, knowing that they have a certain contracted amount over, say, a seven to ten year franchise. If the politicians try to cut the subsidy during a franchise period, the government can be sued. Children can be treated as children, and the adults don't have to suffer any longer.

    In the teeth of a severe recession, and with the state too far in the hole to do anything, and with management bending over backwards to be efficient and minimize the impact of cuts, unions are refusing to make concessions on average pay of almost $60,000 a year for a high school diploma job. It's outrageous. People spend years and borrow tens of thousands getting college and graduate school educations for lower salaries at the end.

    So they conceded on benefits such as health care expenses last year. Big deal. So has just about everyone else throughout the economy.

  • In reply to dblissmn:

    >the childishness of the politicians ... let's outsource it.

    Here's the thing. If you outsource it, the same politicians still control it through the way contracts are issued and decided on. Consider the Hired Truck program. One of the worst and most costly scandals of the decade, that was entirely an outsourcing fiasco. Same with the $100 Duff family waste-hauling disaster. In a different way, same with the parking meter roll-out. The brilliant folks at JPMorgan brought you that one. Whatever you think the problem was - the higher rates (which I support), the denial of malfunctioning machines, the one-size fits all pricing that they built into the contract, it was all settled on by incompetent private sector folks.

    We need honest people and good managers in office. Then, let them decide how to run it - privatizing CAN be a useful tool on occasion. But the history of the last decade has shown us we don't have honest competent people in control. So the first step is changing the guard. With our votes.

  • In reply to ryanwc:

    Oops. $100 million Duff scandal, not $100 Duff scandal.

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