CTA to lay off more than 1,000 workers

October 19, 2009 (CHICAGO) The layoffs are part of a plan to help the city fix a $300 million budget deficit.

Many of the CTA's bus drivers, train operators, maintenance workers, and others - over 1000 workers in all - received a notice in the mail that says "in the event the Transit Board approves the proposed layoffs, you will be permanently laid off."

"We were told there'd be no letters sent out last Monday. The letters were sent out 72 hours later. Who do you believe around here?" said Robert Kelly, Transit Workers Union 308.

Union leaders are distressed saying the layoff mailing now is designed to ratchet up the pressure for concessions. A week ago, the CTA's president urged the transit agency's unions to start talking give-backs - furlough days. Non-union employees will have to take up to 18 unpaid days off next year, along with a continuing pay freeze. So what about the unions?

"It's hard to believe or trust when every year you hear the same thing over and over again," said Kelly.

"I was trained coming up through union ranks you never back anything won through hard fought negotiation, and I'm standing on that. I live by that," said Darrell Jefferson, Transit Workers Union 241.

Union leaders say they realize what's at stake - potentially over a thousand jobs lost - a transit system with more ills, but at the core of this - they say - is a lack of trust. Next year, they say, would be more of the same.

"Can we help. Hopefully we can, but is the only way we can help through concessions, we'll probably have a problem," said Kelly.

"My members are feeling the financial crunch just like every person in this country and I don't think they should surrender not one thing at this time," said Jefferson.

That's something of a snapshot of where union leadership is now. While snapshots are not always final pictures, the union leaders have a line in the sand, and it's drawn, they say, because of what they're hearing from their rank-and-file: No concessions.

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