CTA union strikes back: "Finger-pointing" won't solve anything

Admittedly, before today, I’ve only reported the CTA’s side of the “antiquated work rules” that President Forrest Claypool says must change in upcoming union negotiations.

So today it’s the union’s turn. Earlier this month, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 bought a full-page as in the Chicago Sun-Times to refute Claypool’s examples of some of those work rules. (Here’s a PDF of the ad.)

Here are some excerpts:

Forrest’s claim: Union employees receive “extravagant” floating holidays.

The Facts: CTA currently awards the same floating holidays to its non-union, management employees who, unlike the operators, aren’t required to run the system 365 days a year. And the CTA just added some generous benefits solely for non-union management employees, such as fully paid maternity and paternity leave – on top of the fully paid sick days that non-union management employees receive.

Forrest’s claim: Employees get too many bathroom breaks.

The Facts: There are a few minutes built into the start of rail scheduled for operators to perform required safety checks before pulling the train out. It is just wrong to call this a “coffee break.” Is the CTA really willing to compromise safety with its budget cuts? It’s not only wrong to refuse to pay employees for safety checks, it’s illegal!

Our message to you the riding public: Local 308, of course, will be doing everything we can to prevent our hard-working employees from being laid off. We absolutely want to preserve the level of service that you get now, and in fact add more service for you. We greatly regret that the head of the CTA is trying to use you, the riding public, as pawns.

….We believe that if the CTA and the unions work together we could come up with real solutions and in fact, we have offered innovative money-saving ideas to Forrest Claypool. Unfortunately, instead of talking to us, Mr. Claypool has chosen to try to turn the public against the employees, using a media campaign of unfounded and irresponsible accusations. That kind of finger pointing is not going to solve anything.

After the CTA board approved 2012 budget that included $160 million in union work-rule changes, Local 308 President Robert Kelly said he expects the CTA’s plan to gain concessions to fail.

“To sit here and put that burden on our employees or pressure on me to get them that again is irresponsible, and quite frankly I don’t think it’s going to happen,” said Kelly.

As I’ve said before, this will be interesting.

And in the end, I predict service cuts, and possibly fare increases. Although, I can’t see Mayor Rahm Emanuel allowing a fare hike.


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  • I can't comment on the merits of either side, but did note that F. Kruesi Claypool's comments a couple of months ago seemed overblown. In any event he'll have to convince an arbitrator. The real Kruesi couldn't.

    "Although, I can't see Mayor Rahm Emanuel allowing a fare hike." Kevin, why don't you explain what is so holy about protecting the riders from a fare increase? Emanuel announced rate increases on all sorts of other things within the city budget, so he isn't beyond soaking the populace. $83 million of this deficit was caused by the Quinn fraudulent fare freeze. If Emanuel or you think he Emanuel is going to send Claypool out to the suburbs for another Moving Beyond Congestion campaign for a tax hike (channeling Kruesi and Brown) when Pace can balance its budget with current fares and service levels and Metra can impose a fare increase (not to mention Claypool walking out on the regional cooperation question on your August 1, post), he is certainly mistaken.

    So, Kevin, what do you want...a further unsustainable fare freeze, or a Red Line train every 20 minutes?

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack, I personally think the CTA is way overdue for a rate hike. And yes, you're right that Rahm certainly announced increases on all kinds of fees, etc.

    I could be wrong about the CTA fares, but it's just a feeling I have.

  • In reply to jack:

    A raise of 25¢ per ride certainly won't be the worst thing plus raise the transfer price by the same 25¢ but add a sweetener of either a third use or make it longer than 2 hours.
    Absolutely everything else has gone up in price.
    Never raising the fare gets you into the same mess Metra just got itself into, a huge increase because they were too cowardly to ever raise it over the last few years.

  • As an outsider it is hard to evaluate the claims and counter-claims on work rules, but closing a budget deficit simply by changing work rules seems like a great thing.

    No service cuts.
    No fare hikes.
    No layoffs.

    Seems hard for the union to win the PR battle given where the CTA is starting. The union is put in the position of saying don't change the work rules, do X instead (where X is one of the items above).

  • In reply to WestLooper:

    However, you have to figure that Claypool is on a 6 to 8 month PR drive to do exactly what you say--i.e. say "I tried, but it is the union's fault." Don't forget my "it is up to the arbitrator" point previously made.

    Heck, he has already been on more radio and TV interviews than Ventura, Epstein, and Sveum combined, and was only challenged on WTTW.

    Now that the international got rid of Jefferson, Kelly doesn't present such a thug face to the PR campaign and countercampaign.

  • The thing I find most amazing is the amount of money the City of Chicago pays into the CTA, right behind Cook County. But given that fact, the mayor has the biggest hand controlling who runs the CTA. Since most of the money comes from the fed, you would think there would be some one controlling the puppet strings.

  • In reply to Master Shake:

    I said in connection with Preckwinkle that with all entities supposedly broke, the $3 million from the city doesn't mean much one way or the other.

    However, I have always said that Emanuel is continuing the fact, although a legal fiction, that the CTA is a city agency, and the CTA Board is not in charge. That is the real issue.

    Then add here that Emanuel.is apparently taking credit for the new cars that Claypool didn't even know were here, and for the security cameras, for which funding was apparently provided by Homeland Security.

    Not to mention that, again, Emanuel barely let Claypool out from the background, which he doesn't do except for the union rant.

    Thus, I'll accept the point implied by Kevin that if Emanuel thinks it is his CTA, he's going to have to take the blame for the inevitable service cuts and fare hikes.

  • 308 must be careful in using operators as the only one with breaks. If the public new of what switchman do and video was taken of Customer Assistant Booths, 308 be doomed. Operators should have time for pullout checks, one would hope that they use them correctly!

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