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CTA Transit Union Deserves No One’s Sympathy (Video)

UPDATE (1/21/10): A CTA union board member complained today in my comment thread that past union-member pay raises have been put instead towards health insurance and pensions–so they deserve raises now. I’m sure many underemployed or unemployed Chicagoans would love to have health insurance or a 401K plan. It’s as if the CTA union has been living in a different economy than the rest of us for the past 18 months. The comment needs to be read to be believed…
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Today in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) transit union complained that 1,000 union workers will lose their jobs on February 7th. The rest of us 1.5 million CTA ‘L’ and bus riders know that as the day almost 20% of Chicago transit service will be eliminated–because the transit union refused to share the pain of a bad economy with the rest of us. In this video, I explain why CTA riders owe no sympathy to the soon-to-be-sacked union workers who needlessly caused commutes to get a lot worse for an entire city of transit riders.

(Click the HQ button for a higher-quality video. RSS subscribers, click here to view the video on CHICAGO CARLESS.)

Categories: Chicago Transit Authority TRANSIT VIDEO BLOG

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Michael Thaddeus Doyle

I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.

My Bio | My Conversion | My Family Reunion

Contact: mikedoyleblogger@gmail.com

17 replies

  1. Mike, I do not feel it is as easy as give in to the demands and the system will survive. Mismanagement has been this transit agencys downfall. Daley appoints our president as well as board members who receive pensions after a short time in office. All the while the city gives and has given the transit authority an outdated minimal amount of funding. The federal funding is also using an outdated and faulty formula for splitting the money between CTA, PACE and METRA. These problems have existed for many years and addressing them is what really needs to get done. Politically no one wants to touch them though.

    Another example of mismanagement: 3 years ago when the current contract was agreed to, the workers gave back money in the form of health care contributions and pension funds. The CTA was held legally liable by an arbitrator to bring a practically empty pension fund back to full stability in a certain amount of time. Their answer was to get more from us by increasing our contribution while doing the same on their side. (The reasoning for our empty pension fund is another interesting tale that you should do some research on, needless to say the company got over on the union once again.) Almost immediately after we agreed to these terms in order to have a viable pension fund the CTA gave it’s managers a nice fat raise. Now everyone does deserve to make the most money they can but the timing of that raise seemed a little off in my eyes. It is just one in a long line of decisions that have left the union members feeling distrust toward management.

    I personally took a job with this company because of the benefits and pension. I took a pay cut to work here and traded a comfortable schedule for an insane one so that I could provide for my family. Most people do not know the ins and outs of what we workers go through. Now I’m not asking for sympathy and like I said I hate it that people are without work but do not fault me or the union for the current situation……..it’s more complicated than that.

  2. Tony, I’m actually better informed than most. I’m a trained urban planner who worked for several years as a public transportation planner, including four years with the New York City Transit Riders Council–two of them as Associate Director. During my time at the Transit Riders Council, we warned over and over about the increasing costs of labor contracts and debt service, which would eventually swamp most agencies’ ability to afford them. Together, those costs have strangled not just NYC Transit, but most American transit agencies.

    Besides in Chicago, in the past 12 months, service cuts have been taken or proposed in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Seattle, Portland (Oregon), Boston, and many other places. In every instance, unions refusing to budge on outdated work agreements in the face of a deeply recessed economy have been the primary reason why.

    I can only imagine in city after city, union workers got the same bad advice they got here in Chicago–that they somehow magically deserved a better economic deal in the middle of a hellish recession than the members of the public at large who a.) employed them; b.) paid their salaries; and c.) were in no way guaranteed a similar free ride.

    What I find most laughable in Chicago’s case are the hackneyed, outdated calls for the CTA to “fire the fatcats” in management. No transit agency would ever cut service if there were any viable option not to do so, the CTA included. In fact, CTA tightened its belt repeatedly over the past few years as pandering government officials forbade it to incrementally raise fares, which would have been a help. All the ridiculous 1970s-era rhetoric used by union representatives to rile up the faithful managed to do–Fatcats? Really now?–was lull members into believing that somehow the agency wasn’t telling the truth.

    With 1,100 union workers now out of work because the money just wasn’t there to pay them anymore, isn’t about time the union clues into the fact that no one’s moving up in this economy? As an Illinois taxpayer, I help pay CTA salaries salary, yet I’m struggling hard not to fall through the economic cracks along with everyone else. Given that, my first priority simply cannot be to make sure CTA union workers remain comfortably middle-class.

  3. Oh and I just wanted to add that being unemployed stinks, been there-done that. I just don’t think that the attitude toward protecting middle class workers should turn negative because the country is hurting. The gap between the upper class and lower class is widening because of this exact thing. Soon there will be no middle at all. Look at the big picture.

  4. You are not well informed on the entire issue sir. You cannot see the same numbers game that has gone on in the past and is going on once again, where management puts the burden onto the low men and women on the totem pole. Leaving themselves free of appropriate blame on past and current issues and shifting focus onto them/us using misinformation and taking advantage of peoples lack of knowledge or desire to aquire such knowledge in difficult times.

    The years spent abusing the working men and women of this city led to laws and our right to form unions in an attempt to protect our rights from unfair labor practices. Such unfair labor practices still occur despite our attempts to use said laws and unions. Those that are forced on us we accept without the general publics knowledge. There are no news reports lasting months or buses announcing those bad deals, none the less they exist. When you consider these accounts coupled with managements newest and well publicized bad deals there is no wonder why we and yes I said WE had to turn down their offer. The offer which the general public will never see, an offer that included much more than reported.

    So as much as it hurts me to see people out of work and the effect this will have on this city, it is not the unions problem to solve; this one belongs to both management and our elected officials. I know it’s much harder to get them to concede or admit wrongdoing and the front line workers who earn much less and feel all of the backlash are seemingly easier targets………we must stand united and fight for the working man/woman.

  5. would have to disagree with you on this Michael – and union-baiting is never pretty – it’s not the fault of the union members this country is in the mess it’s in, and telling the unions to give up their hard-won middle class wages and benefits and reduce themselves to the levels of the more exploited…that’s a very slippery slope to go down that ends in Bangalore…
    signed, an unemployed ex-union member

  6. If I ever met a civil or at least, non-angry CTA worker I might feel sympathy. Nope, this carless, democrat, liberal, tax and spend voter sees the work ethic four times a day on the CTA. Sorry, no sympathy here. You have a pension, Health care and a job. I have none of the above. Thanks for making my life harder CTA union.

  7. I’m definitely with you on this, Mike. I don’t understand unions that would prefer unemployment to concessions. We’ve all tightened our belts — everyone except some of the unions.

    One of the unions representing Chicago Public Library employees also refused to agree to concessions. The result was layoffs last year that have sharply reduced the quality of service CPL offers.

    We all suffer when unions refuse to compromise. Let the layoffs commence.

  8. Should I bother answering that? You already called me dishonest for having the temerity to call the transit union ungrateful. Which they are, since they have jobs and most would have retained them–along with health insurance and pensions. So, yes, Jeremy, I am as employed as the next person in this economy. The next non-transit-union worker, anyway.

  9. For the anonymous commenter whose comment does not appear today, thank you for submitting it. Of course, nothing is truly anonymous. Your IP address was recorded with your comment and your threat may be reported to the authorities–and to your employer, for that matter.

  10. Pathetic. Poor fighting the poor. Meanwhile Exxon is planning more energy wars for our kids, and climate emergencies proliferate. Hope the anti-union bait tastes good, because the hook really HURTS.

  11. Marvin Jacobs sorry for your pain but if you had taken the concessions the 1,000 or so cta employees could have kept their jobs. Now they will be on the same buses going to interviews, or will the union find them other jobs now?

  12. Marvin Jacobs, get a grip. What a shame, your raises are delayed again and you still have health insurance and retirement benefits. Are you kidding me?

    I’m sure lots of unemployed and underemployed people in Chicago and across this country who have been far more ravaged by this economy than your protected union workers would be very grateful to find a part-time job, or have their hours reduced rather than end up on the unemployment line. Or to have health insurance or a pension–at all–and no matter how they’re paid for.

    Obviously, your union members are not similarly grateful–or just not living on the same planet as the rest of us. You’re demanding raises because the CTA has been “unfair” to you while for the past 18 months thousands of people in Chicago have lost their jobs and thousands more are suffering pay reductions and reduced hours?

    Your members have some nerve to complain that at least having a job–much less a job with benefits–isn’t enough. So 1,000 of them are getting exactly what they deserve. Welcome to the really unfair economic circumstances the rest of us have been experiencing in the real world.

  13. I think asking the CTA Union employees to postpone a 3.5% payraise as non-union workers have had NO raise for 4 years is reasonable. I agree that public transportation is NOT a priority in this country, even with a Chicagoan as President.

  14. Your assumed facts are not accurate. As an Executive Board member of Local-241, which is the Union which represents CTA Bus Operators, allow me to set the record straight. First of all, we do not seek anyone’s pity. We do however, seek fairness. The current CTA budget shortfall was created by the Authorities gross mismanagement. Local-241 has allowed CTA to take our last three pay raises and divert them to health and pension increases in the spirit of cooperation. And the mismanagement continues. Bus Operators are the subject of physical attacks on our person on a daily basis, and we are expected to take less pay for the privilage. I don’t think so.

  15. It is always a simple scapegoat to blame the unions. Mass transit has never been a priority in this country. Republican and Democrat’s alike (although the Repubs have cut much more) have cut transit funding.

    To blame it on the union employees is a simple and dishonest solution.

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