Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Local 241: Inside Track Or Taken For A Ride?

As we get closer to the first transit doomsday the rhetoric is heating up. The Mayor of Chicago tells Springfield that it is do-or-die time and to get its act together, but adds not a dime to Chicago's $3 million annual contribution to the Chicago Transit Authority's operating budget, which has not changed for almost 25 years. The CTA lines up 39 buses representing each of the bus routes that will be cut in the first doomsday. The Senate Minority leader, Frank Watson, sends a letter urging fare hikes. Federal legislators warn that the CTA's troubles may keep Chicago from ascending to the Olympian heights. The looming doomsday finally prompts a spirited public hearing at Lane Tech High School.

What may be most interesting, however, is yesterday's U-turn by the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 241. Local 241 represents the CTA's bus drivers and will lose approximately 600 members if the cuts go through. Like the CTA's other unions, Local 241 has agreed to significant concessions as part of the SB 572 process.

According to reports (here and here) Local 241 was preparing a press conference to roll out a plan to file a lawsuit and take other aggressive action intended to forestall doomsday. At the last minute, Local 241 dropped these plans. Its spokesperson cited promises from legislative leaders that the transit funding problems would be fixed in time to avert doomsday.

Here is Channel 2's take:

by the time their 1 p.m. news conference finally got going at nearly 3:30, union officials had backed way off because, they said, of promises from key legislative leaders.

"The legislature will take action and will be responsible and not allow one of the largest mass transit systems become paralyzed," Melvin Caldwell, ATU Local Union 241, said.

No details were offered either by the union or state politicians. For his part, Mayor Richard M. Daley expressed sympathy with the angry bus drivers, noting that they had recently ratified a new contract that provides no immediate pay raise and makes long-term concessions on the cost of health care and pensions.

"They've done their part. Sure they're upset. This is ridiculous. Now, this is the week that adults in Springfield have to do their job," Daley said.

A spokesman for House Speaker Mike Madigan says he's not aware of any breakthrough.

Does Local 241 have an inside track to a transit funding solution, or has it been taken for a ride?

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They should call a strike. That would show all the politicians, and put the pain on all of the riders.

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