Fired CTA inspectors: Jobs aren't enough

Arbitrator: Men keep seniority, no back pay
Track inspectors Bruce McFall and Brian Hill - along with three supervisors - were fired in the aftermath of the CTA's Blue Line derailment in July 2006. McFall and Hill argued that they were scapegoats in what would later be revealed as a much larger problem of deeply flawed CTA inspections practices.

An arbitrator has said that McFall and hill should be offered re-instatement, but they both say the CTA has added conditions making it too onerous to say yes.

"It's been an uphill climb. It's been a struggle," said Bruce McFall, former CTA rail inspector.

Bruce McFall had quadruple by-pass surgery a year ago, and in the 20-months since his firing, he's been unable to find a job. The same is true for fellow track inspector Brian Hill - a father of six - who says his CTA dismissal has been a red flag to other potential employers.

"Hanging in there. I'm continuing to continue," said Hill.

An arbitrator ruled earlier this summer that there was "sufficient evidence that Hill and McFall were negligent" in their inspections of Blue Line track, but that they should be offered "reinstatement" at the CTA because their "discharges should be reduced to long suspensions." The men would "keep their seniority", but get "no back pay."

More recently, McFall and Hill say the CTA added other requirements to their re-instatement as car service workers-- they would not be allowed to publicly discuss the case, and would have to agree not to sue over back pay.

"And the fact that they would just slap us in the face and say you should be glad you got your job back. Why should I be glad when I got all these other problems that's on my shoulders?"

"So they just say we're gonna take Bruce and Brian - as he said, the dumb African-Americans- and we're gonna blame them because they're just happy to get their jobs back. Well, it's a new day. I'm gonna fight for mine. You owe me money," said Brian.

The CTA doesn't see it that way and refers to the arbitrator's decision not to award back pay.

McFall and Hill have argued for the last two years that they were scapegoats after the Blue Line derailment of '06. And while the arbitrator did fault them for inspection negligence, the NTSB found deeply systemic problems with CTA inspection practices - many of which have been changed today.

"The track men are going around saying, 'Thank you, Bruce and Big Baby' -- is what they call me, Big Baby -- 'thanks Bruce and Big Baby for getting us the stuff we need to do our job right.'"

Their union has urged McFall and hill to accept the CTA's conditioned offer, and come back to work as car servicers. But McFall and Hill say - as a matter of principle, they can't and won't sign - even though they both remain without jobs.

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