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15_Latest News - February 2010

15_February 17, 2010
CTA Calls Union Proposals Too Costly
Chicago Tribune by John Hilkevitch

Cost savings proposed by Chicago Transit Authority labor unions to help reduce a large budget deficit would actually cost the transit agency an additional $78 million, the CTA board chairman said Wednesday.

The union proposals would cost the CTA more money by bringing back conductors on trains, replacing some CTA managers with union employees and using union labor for some snow-removal work that the CTA now contracts out, board Chairman Terry Peterson said.

The CTA's negative assessment of the union plan to purportedly reduce spending by $90.6 million was offered at the end of a day marked by dueling news conferences held by the union and by management over how to restore bus and rail service that was cut Feb. 7, along with reversing about 1,100 CTA employee layoffs.

The gulf separating the two sides appears to be widening, and the public-relations tactics are growing increasing nasty.

Union leaders, accompanied by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, alleged racial discrimination during an event Wednesday morning at the CTA's Red Line terminal at 95th Street along the Dan Ryan Expressway. They said the CTA's service cuts were implemented to produce a harsher impact on poor and minority communities on the South Side, while sparing North Side riders.

CTA officials responded that the service reduction plan was developed in accordance with federal Title VI guidelines, which are anti-discrimination provisions designed to ensure mass-transit routes serving minority communities or the poor are not disproportionately affected by service cuts. The CTA is required to follow those guidelines or risk the loss of federal funding.

Furthermore, most CTA rail lines and bus routes travel through several neighborhoods, the officials said.

The main problem prolonging the stalemate appears to be that CTA officials and the leaders of the Amalgamated Transit Union still have not met. Wednesday was the 11th day of service cuts affecting 119 of 150 bus routes and seven of eight rail lines.

CTA officials blamed the union leadership, saying its leaders haven't returned phone calls requesting negotiations that would cover possible salary cuts, unpaid furlough days and higher employee costs for health insurance.

Darrell Jefferson, the president of the bus drivers union, Local 241 of the ATU, has not returned any phone calls placed to him by Peterson or CTA President Richard Rodriguez, both said.

Jefferson countered that CTA officials are the ones who haven't answered calls or reached out to hold talks. But Jefferson, who on Saturday during an event at Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition headquarters called on Peterson and Rodriguez to meet with him Wednesday, did not appear at the union event at 95th Street.

Peterson said he did talk to Robert Kelly, the president of the rail workers union, ATU Local 308, and that Kelly promised to submit more detailed proposals to help cut a $95.6 million budget deficit this year.

Meanwhile, Peterson said Jackson did agree to meet with him Friday.




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