Claypool, rail union chief Kelly go head to head; it's not pretty

CTA President Forrest Claypool and rail union chief Robert Kelly appeared together on the Chicago Tonight Monday.

That was the last thing they agreed on.

And it wasn’t pretty. Here are two choice lines:

Claypool: “Mr. Kelly gets an A for rhetoric, but an F on math.”

Kelly: “Mr. Claypool gets an A for BS and and F for telling the truth.”

Claypool uttered his line about Kelly when Kelly said that the 9,000 bus and rail union workers would have to give up about $20,000 per member a year to reach the $160 million in cuts Claypool is asking from the unions. Claypool explained union members would see reductions in overtime, not base salary. “And we will work to gain savings through attrition.”

Kelly called “BS” on Claypool when the prez ticked off “antiquated” union rules such as workers earning 2.5 times base pay by working on their birthdays. Kelly said they really earn 2 times base pay – and said many other companies offer that. (Folks, please let us know if you get paid double by working on your natal day.)

Claypool repeated one of my favorite lines of his: “The CTA is seeking $160 million work rules that are encrusted like barnacles on an old ship that keep it from moving.” Gotta say that’s a great image.

View the Chicago Tonight interview.

Bottom line, it doesn’t look like the union will agree to the CTA’s demands for $160 million in work rule changes.

And if they don’t, Claypool said he’ll look at service cuts first, with fare hikes as the last resort.

It’s too early for Doomsday scenarios.


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  • "...such as workers earning 2.5 times base pay by working on their birthdays. Kelly said the really earn 2 times base pay..."

    Whew. Thanks for clearing that up, Robert. 2x base pay on birthdays as opposed to 2.5x really makes you sound like less of a moron.

  • In reply to cccpr1:

    Seriously... I don't know of one company that practices this or 2x pay on your anniversary day. Sounds like something out of kindergarten.

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    In reply to cccpr1:

    CTA employees must work all holidays occuring on their regular work day or get charged with a violation. It's possible to work an entire year without getting a holiday off. These are the only 2 exceptions. Maybe employees could be prevented from working on these personal days, but then someone else would and CTA would still be paying double.

  • In reply to falconsax:

    Falconsax, your absolutely right we do have to work all holidays and it is possible to work "all" holidays year round if your days off don't fall on these holidays. The public has to understand one thing, everyone at CTA has awkward days off. Some have split days off. This is not your average 9-5 job with weekends off. This isn't mcd's. The public only see's things from an outside perspective. They only see what they want to see. They need to get their facts right. This place operates 24/7 365 days a year and we the employees are the ones that make it happen. I would like to see some top executives from cta come and operate these trains for once. They wouldn't survived! They expect us to be train operators, firemen, policmen, paramedics, mechanics... all in one package. We don't get paid enough for this. Aside of this we are working all year around in the heat, rain, cold. Seriously folks??? Stop thinking so single minded!

  • In reply to hidden1:

    Also to add... Alot of us here are on the property sometimes upto 12 fricken hours because of some of these motoruns, away from their families and only getting paid for 8 1/5 hours. working midnight pieces of work or even midday jobs too messin up our family time. You think thats cool? I would surely love to spend some quality time with "my" family.

  • "Kelly: 'Mr. Claypool gets an A for BS and and F for telling the truth.'"

    Unfortunately, for once Kelly got it absolutely right, as Claypool proved in the Tribune yesterday.* You can't negotiate with a liar. Cf. the same mess Quinn is in with the IPLRB with regard to reneging on a no layoff pledge in a collective bargaining agreement.

    I don't see why, after the Quinn shell game, that fare increases should be the "last resort."

    If Emanuiel really cared about the CTA, he would ask Claypoool to resign now, and admit his mistake. However, apparently Rahm has another, more destructive plan in mind.

    *People are posting YouTubes of L cars being delivered, and that psychotic tried to convince the press a week ago that they weren't?

  • In reply to jack:

    Soooo, Claypool is wrong on budget negotiations because he was wrong about when the new L cars were delivered? That's the dumbest logic you've posted in a long time (and you post a lot of dumb things).

    Look at the facts. Claypool needs to balance the budget. Riders benefit by maintaining service levels and not increasing fares. Wages and benefits are the largest part of the CTA operating budget, and they are grossly out of whack compared to a private company.

    Other than your insane hatred of Forrest Claypool (and EVERY other CTA chief), how exactly can you be defending Kelly here?

  • In reply to Aaron:

    Claypool may have to balance the budget, but he has proven that he is not the person to do that job. He has no transit experience, he talks in corporate speak, and yes he lies. When questioned, he claims exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act, does not give a direct answer and walks out. That's a trustworthy public servant?

    These are facts, "not insane hatred." Also, I am not defending Kelly. I am simply pointing out that he is right in saying that Claypool is a liar and a b.s. artist, and I conclude that you can't negotiate with someone like that. Hence the negotiations will not be successful.

    I'll also say that compared to Claypool, and in retrospect, Rodriguez was a paragon of efficiency, even though he was sent in to do what Daley told him.

    There is a problem of duplicity at CTA, from Kruesi's staff accepting defective work, to Rodriguez pointing out that Huberman was in the process of getting rid of the NABIs six months before Rodriguez did. Claypool just continues this trend of that you can deny what is obvious on the street.

    As I mentioned yesterday, it is those of you that kiss the tuchus of the CTA management who have a problem, not those of us who point out the facts. You tell us what Claypool has done alone, other than go out on a scripted PR tour?

  • Gotta love the Chicago unions--screw the public, and our younger members, as long as we get ours. Only in Chicago can unions drive me away from labor.

    Has anyone yet seen anything about what, if anything, the CTA unions might be willing to give up?

  • In reply to vise77:

    They sure looked like that the last time, when they voted for 1000 layoffs rather than concessions. But the now deposed Darrell Jefferson could have it two ways: looking tough to the 80% who voted in that manner, and then going to the homes of the other 20% to commiserate with them because they were laid off.

    So, see Aaron, I am not defending the union here.

    However, with regard to your last paragraph, nobody negotiates in the press (except those like Quinn and Claypool).

  • In reply to vise77:

    No and you will not in the media. Regardless to wehther you like it or not negotiations should take place and the membership should vote the contract up or down. If it is voted down and they are at an impass then it goes to interest arbitration for anabritrator to decide. Claypool has decided he wants the public to hear lies to go against the unions.That only hurts negotiations. As for what unions get vs the private sector well that is a sad comparasion. First they are not the private sector. most private sectors make mininium wage and live in poverty or close to it.

  • Times are hard for many Chicagoans will be making 0.0 times base pay on their birthday this year?

    With no concession on wages and benefits, Chicagoans can get ready for higher fares and service cutbacks with their already shrunken paychecks.

  • In reply to mmChi:

    For that matter, some will be making 1000%. However, 1000% of nothing is still nothing.

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    In reply to mmChi:

    How many Chicagoans HAVE ALWAYS TO SKEEP SHARING WITH FAMILY IN HOLIDAYS BESIDES CTA EMPLOYEES. Only fire department, and police deparment. You can feel the pain if u are not one of them.

  • lol at the birthday pay correction.

    Refusing to curt absurd benefits like that is really going to turn against the union. If they think Claypool/Rahm are going to obediently fold to the transit unions and still be faced with much larger union battles to come from other city workers they've got another thing coming.

  • Ugh. Filling a $160 million gap with service cuts alone will be disasterous. We're talking about at least roughly 30%+ cut across the board. Unless night and weekend service is drastically cut to the point it is absolutely pathetic, this will mean that even rush hour services will need to be cut. When people cannot board the next 5 buses or trains that arrive, yeah some riders will start driving more, but eventually when the cost of transportation and hassles of terrible traffic congestion increase exponentially both people and companies will throw their hands up and start leaving. If Chicago becomes impossible to live in without owning a car, I will be leaving thats for sure.

    I have NEVER heard of getting special pay at a company on a birthday. The fact the union leadership tried to justify the 2 times regular pay as being a reasonable employee benefit is outrageous. But even if the ridership became angrier than hell and stands up against the CTA unions, what would that even accomplish? Grandstanding and then either a strike or the severe cuts still happen. But then what happens at this time next year for the 2013 budget? There will be another funding shortfall because the economy is not getting much better and the same expensive union work rules and perks will still be in place! At what point does this annual downward spiral finally end? When the CTA's operating hours are similar to smaller non-urban cities' bus systems in which 90% of their routes operate between 6am and 7pm Monday to Friday only?

    If I had to chose, I'd want fare increases over service cuts. I think that Claypool is putting service cuts first because that will hurt the unions more and stick it to them rather than passing the pain onto the riders.

  • In reply to Matt:

    I can generally agree with this.

    While Claypool might "think" that he is going to get $160 million by imposing a contract, it is clear from reading the budget that $83 million of the next year's deficit was caused by the Quinn fare freeze (i.e. Ponzi scheme) funds not being available in FY 2012.

    I also agree that if buses and trains are packed now, it won't get better with more service cuts. As far as when the spiral ends, that is a problem with most government entities in the state. Imposing contract terms may take care of some of it, but not enough, so long as the state does nothing to foster economic development, which would result in better sales and real estate transfer tax collections.

    One might also note that last year at about this time, people were talking about "restoring service" back to 2009 levels and the Schumer $2 billion operating subsidy bill. No one is talking about them now, but about how service will be cut more.

    Of course, Gump's script does not include anything I mentioned in the post of Oct. 20 to address other structural problems.

  • I have been reading the CTA Tattler for a long time now, but this is my first post. I would like to provide my two cents on the CTA budget issues. As everyone knows, the over 80% of the CTA's costs are labor. Whether the CTA raises fares or reduces service is irrelevant with regards to it's budget problems. This is merely a temporary fix. Until the CTA reduces labor costs, the budget problems will continue to reappear. The fact that Mr. Kelley believes receiving twice your normal hourly wage on your birthday is the norm shows his ignorance. He either has never worked in the private sector or his only private sector experience is within a union. The biggest issue at large is the CTA is not profitable and is funded entirely by taxpayer dollars. The fact that CTA union employees receive a better retirement plan than their peers in the private sector is absurd. I am sure we all know the difference between a 401(k) and a pension. Either way, why should the CTA, which has serious budget issues, continue to fund a pension? A 401(k) would help the CTA reduce costs and honestly this is what a majority of Americans are given at their employer as a means to fund their retirement. The union should have no objections to this. The only reason they would is because of their "entitlement" mentality. Unless I am mistaken, the average rail and bus driver makes around $25-$29/hour. There are a lot of people unemployed right now that would love a job that pays this wage. If the union is unwilling to negotiate on wage increases, I think the CTA needs to seriously consider laying off these individuals, if possible. I am willing to bet many of the individuals who drive a rail car or bus do not have a college degree. I concede that a college education does not determine intelligence, but the point is I do not think the CTA would have a difficult time replacing the individuals who were laid off. I also concede that CTA management has made its fair share of mistakes as well. However, unless labor costs are reformed and the union is willing to negotiate on a numb of issues the CTA's problems will persist. I know many people will disagree with my comments, but I guess I have never been part of a union and I do not understand their "entitlement" mentality. After all, any private company that was as unprofitable as the CTA would force their employees to make major concessions. Yet, for CTA employees making concessions is like pulling teeth.

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    In reply to david:

    Unions are companies' friend they guarantee they employees are there 24/7 working because union contract include not strike or slow down. Do u got it now?

  • In reply to david:

    David, what mr. Kelly was explaining about birthday pay was that automatically we get our our birthday off paid 8hrs. In the event due to man power, we get called in to work we would receive an additional 8hrs. We get these certain days off because throughout the entire year we have to work on holidays like thanksgiving, Christmas, new years...etc. I would love to spend the time with my family but because I have to work these special holidays, "I HAVE TO WORK!" You get it now??? So the ignorant one is "you". You probably get to spend time with your family like you want. I DON'T!

  • When you work on your days off, i am pretty sure in USA you get over time pay if you are an hourly employee. Birthday is a day off for cta employees. And CTA employees gets 6 holiday per year and NO Sick pay. Whats wrong with you people reading only one side of the story

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    In reply to PARU:

    That is incorrect by labor department rules more than 40 hrs a week it's overtime since u are of one day if u want to work that day you had accumulated only 32 hrs that's why they pay only extra 8hrs NO TIME AND HALF LIKE MR CTA PRESINDENT SAYS DON REPET HIS LIES.

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    Here is my opinion CTA HAD NOT GRANTED OR HAD BEEN GENEROSITY to their employee in the past. Every contract had been made always squeezing the pulp to obtain more juice from their employes. Any rules or benefits had been very well calculated to guarantee the trains and bus operation timely . For example, my birth day is 10/10 when others federal and private companies like schools, Post office. Waste managment, banks are taking the day of in Columbus' day; CTA pay me 8 hours for enjoy my birthday, if CTA want to stop this a "generous helping", it's fine for me but, next year I WANT COLUMBUS' DAY OFF!! I will work overtime to recover time and half in some one also falling day in a holiday. Is this make sense? If you go to Walmart in a holiday you have to wait extra 30 minutes in a long lane only 1 or 2 cashier working! CTA can afford to that we have to be on time. Time is super important in a trasportation for example an aircraft pay tousands of dollars for every minute late at the gate, and we have to accomplished the same WE HAVE TO GARANTEE ON TIME! There is something also behind this WE HAVE A NEW UNION CONTRACT AROUND THE CORNER AND THEY ARE PAINTING THE FROM LINE OF CTA WITH EMPLOYEES AND UNIONS WHEN THE FACT IS THEY HAD BEEN MAKING MISTAKES IN BUDGETS.

  • In reply to Ernesto Aranega:

    I wouldn't necessarily go along with that the union is there to help the CTA out, when most of the contracts are the result of arbitration and both sides know that. If anything else, it is like baseball in that each is staking out its first offer in the hopes that the arbitrator will accept it. Then, with regard to the 2010 layoffs, the arbitrator declared based on the "law of the shop" as he found it.

    I'm not going to negotiate the contract for either party, but note again, that while private companies probably don't give you an off day for your birthday, they usually throw in a couple of floating holidays. They, and vacations, may be a "use it or lose it" proposition, but you can use a floater on your birthday if you want. Of course, as I previously noted, the companies can put people on independent contract status, assuring that they get no paid holidays.

    Hence, I am sure that the equities go in either direction, and am also sure that CTA is not going to get $180 m. in labor concessions.

  • In reply to jack:

    Could someone report the actual vacation/sick/holiday policy applying to a regular CTA employee? And is the work week 40 hours?

  • In reply to WestLooper:

    I can't give you the contract.

    However, for bus drivers, it isn't 40 hours but how your pick works out. Some drivers on discussed the rules, but you'll have to search there.

    Also, with regard to the arbitration I mentioned during the Kruesi years, CTA experimented with rostering, which was to give all drivers in a garage one block run 5 days a week and pay for overtime only over 40 hours/wk, instead of 8 hrs/day, but that arbitrator didn't allow CTA to continue it into the next contract. The run number guide on shows some block runs, but otherwise drivers get to pick their own schedule (depending on seniority) subject to minimum and maximum hours allowed.

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