Union, CTA Blame Each Other as Service Cuts Loom

Beginning Sunday: 18% reduction in bus service, 9% reduction in rail

By BJ Lutz and Natalie Martinez
|  Tuesday, Feb 9, 2010  |  Updated 8:16 PM CDT
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Chicago's Pantsless CTA Ride

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CTA, Unions Point Fingers at Each Other

The CTA says its unions aren't giving up enough to avoid service cuts, and the unions say CTA management is uncooperative.
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Beginning Sunday, roughly 1,000 CTA employees will lose their jobs and service on 119 bus routes and all seven rail lines will be reduced --- and no one is happy about it.

"We don’t want to reduce service or lay off employees,"  CTA President Richard  Rodriguez said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that we don’t have the funds we need to maintain our existing service. Our largest labor unions have been unwilling to help us reduce costs."

But union leaders argue that the CTA management team is uncooperative and that their offers, which have included $90 million in givebacks, have been shot down.

"In the past, we've always been able to work with CTA management, you know, restructure things and we've never lost anyone, but this CTA management team is unworkable," said Darrell Jefferson of the Amalgamated Transit Union 241, which represents bus drivers.

After an arbitrator ruled Wednesday that the CTA didn't violate contract provisions in determining which employees would be laid off, Rodriguez reiterated to the union his desire to negotiate with them.

"They always tell you guys that, but when we sit down they're unwilling to talk," Jefferson said.

Mayor Richard Daley on Thursday urged both sides to sit down at the bargaining table.

"If the unions are serious, now is the time for them to do so," Daley said.

Three years ago, Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis Gannon helped convince CTA unions to make concessions on pay increases, retiree health care and pensions.

Union employees say there isn't much more for them to give.

"If you give it up now, you can never get it back," one CTA employee said.

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