CTA train operators vote in favor of strike

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The Chicago Transit Authority train operators voted to authorize a srike, as contract negotiations continue. (WLS)

Chicago Transit Authority train operators voted to authorize a strike, their union announced Monday, as contentious contract negotiations continue.

In response, CTA management claims that the union does not have the right to strike.

Working without a contract for 18 months, train operators have apparently had enough. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 is hoping a preliminary strike vote will put some pressure on negotiations with the CTA.

"We do not want to cause the city a heart attack, but our patience has worn out. Our anger is growing," said Kenneth Franklin, president of ATU Local 308.

One-third of union members participated in the vote, which was 98 percent in favor of strike. No strike date has been set.

Calling on Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Dorval Carter to come to the negotiating table, the union accuses the city of being disrespectful by offering proposals that Local 308 says would increase part-time workers and diminish pensions.

Train operators said their jobs have never been more stressful.

"Now with the violence that is on the uprise, the homeless we deal with on a daily basis, it is stressful as an operator," said train operator Deborah Lane.

"You have to deal with human feces in the motor cars, you have to deal with drug needles, drug addicts on the train," operator Kevin Wilson said.

While CTA riders are sympathetic, many said a strike would be devastating for their daily lives.

"It would be extraordinarily difficult to get from this location down to the Loop everyday," said rider Melissa Urbanski.

"I would probably lose my job, If couldn't get to work," said Robert Neason, a CTA rider.

The CTA said a strike can't happen because the union contract prohibits its members for striking for any reason. They call the strike vote a publicity stunt.

The transit authority said workers are not being disrespected.

"Our operators are among the highest paid in the nation. They have great wages, good working environments, good benefits and generally supportive management," said Steve Mayberry, a CTA spokesman.

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