Sick Call: Union Worker Tries to Incite Mass Call Off

119 bus routes and seven El lines are running less frequently already

As the CTA service cuts get a trial by fire during the first weekday commute, at least one worker is trying to make things worse, officials say.

A CTA union member this morning showed up to a garage where bus drivers were coming to work and started handing out flyers imploring workers to call in sick to work.

"We’re going to look into the allegations," said CTA President Richard Rodriguez. "We will not tolerate troublemakers.”

CTA officials are trying to determine if it was a union steward that was causing the trouble.

It shouldn’t be hard to find the perpetrator, who also left flyers at another garage. She posted her name on the leaflets.

The worker probably didn’t need to exacerbate the problems; the unions and the CTA are already at odds and riders are feeling the pinch already.

"The riders are suffering," said Rosemary Perkins who usually waits just five to 10 minutes for her bus along Western Avenue. "It's very frustrating."

Lane Tech student Marion Gordon thinks she'll miss her first period class because of a slow moving X49 bus.

"This is getting ridiculous," she said.

And it's not just slow buses and scrapped routes hurting passengers, the lack of lines turns existing buses into traveling sardine cans.

The CTA is trying to fill a $95 million hold in the agency's 2010 budget. Transit Authority leaders say non-union employees have made concessions, and now they need the unions to pony up. But union leaders have said their members have made too many sacrifices in the past, and they can't make new concessions.

Mayor Daley failed to broker an agreement between CTA officials and union leaders Friday, so CTA service cuts began taking effect Sunday.  Those cuts include laying off about 1,100 union workers. As the reality of those job losses came to fruition, it seems the ATU may have developed a renewed willingness to negotiate.

Union leaders said the meeting with Daley did help smooth things over between the unions and CTA officials, but it was just too late to stop the cuts.

Under the CTA cuts, 119 bus routes and seven El lines are running less frequently. More than 40 bus routes and nine express routes have been cut.

“We were at a stalemate. He did open the dialogue. That’s a start,” said Robert Kelly, head of Amalgamated Transit Union 308, which represents rail workers, reported the Sun Times.

CTA officials have also said they are willing to sit down with the unions again, but the layoffs and cuts are going through.
Terry Peterson, CTA chairman, promised staff would work around the clock to restore service and jobs if the two sides can reach a deal within the next few weeks.

Peterson said the CTA is willing to listen to cost-cutting ideas from the unions, so hopefully an agreement will come soon.

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