Bus drivers with DUIs got CTA jobs back to lure union to negotiating table

A longtime CTA Tattler reader tipped me off to this Fox Chicago News story I  missed last week:

Three CTA bus drivers fired after they were caught allegedly drinking and driving are now back behind the wheel, and the CTA appears to regret its decision. A Fox Chicago News/ Better Government Association investigation found the process that allowed the drivers to get their jobs back is a lesson in Chicago-style backroom wheeling and dealing.

The bus drivers were all charged with drunk driving while they were off-duty and were subsequently fired after they lost their Commercial Driver’s Licenses. Under CTA rules, any driver who does not have a valid CDL for 180 days can be terminated.

CTA President Rich Rodriguez said the agency took the extraordinary step of rehiring those drivers as something of an olive branch. Earlier this year, the CTA was millions of dollars in the red and needed to restructure its labor agreements. Rodriguez said they allowed the former employees with DUI’s to get back behind the wheel as an enticement to get the Amalgamated Transit Union to the bargaining table to talk about furlough days and cutbacks.

Andy Shaw, executive director of the Better Government Association, couldn’t have said it better: “You don’t buy labor peace by jeopardizing the safety of riders by rehiring people with drunken driving records.”


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  • From the article (Simmons is a Union officer)...

    "Simmons said the union fought for the DUI bus drivers out of compassion. All are veteran drivers with families who depend on their salaries.

    "We do what any union would do for our members," said Simmons. "Of course, safety is always first with us." "

    So where was the union's compassion for the 1,000+ bus operators who got laid off? Many of them have families too.

    And even though the DUIs occurred off duty, CTA employees know the drill- you lose your CDL, you can't drive and you lose your job.

    This just shines a light on how the union was acting in bad faith from the outset. They demanded that CTA agree to these terms before they would even come to the negotiating table. Then they threw the 1,000 operators to the trash. Way to represent your members!

  • Here is the link:

    The one thing explained in the video, but not in the text, is that the interviewed driver lost her CDL for one year, thus coming within the 180 day rule. I was wondering how she could drive without a CDL at all, but she got it back.

    In that case, beside the wheeling-dealing, and the point District 299 Reader makes, maybe a question should be posed about the Secretary of State reinstating suspended CDLs.

  • In reply to jack:

    I don't understand how it all works at all. Every day when you show up for work at CTA, you have to present your CDL. So how can you go 179 days without 1?

  • What's needed is a state law that prevents the CTA, Pace, Metra or any other transit agency from having a driver with a DUI arrest or conviction as an employee.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Don't forget cab drivers, there are a lot of cabbies on the streets with vehicular manslaughter on their record.

  • I agree - the SOS needs to work w/ Springfield to create a law preventing a DUI convicted driver from getting gaining public employment period. Shame on the union and CTA leadership for not stopping this wreck no matter what the original intention.

    Towards the end of the clip a few other things ... the drivers got back pay ($70K) and Ms Smith seemed to lawyer-up towards the end. I am just sick and tired of people not stepping up and taking responsibility for their actions and instead saying that a couple of beers is too much but it's ok bc everyone does it. Wrong - not everyone does it. If you read the report - the cops pulled her over bc she nearly hit a car and then attempted to run. Also exhibited typical behavior of someone under the influence (slurred speech, profanity at the police doing their job, and strong odor of alcohol).

  • In reply to eflam201:

    It's hard to understand how former public employees can be sent to prison over corruption, but still collect paychecks and pensions from the government.

  • Another shameful moment for CTA. This article reaffirms two things: they don't seem to care about their passengers, or their employees. But when you have a monopoly, you can get away with treating people like crap.

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