Category Archives: CTA employees

CTA Labor Union Layoffs


Due to the major CTA budget deficits in the past three years, the transit agency planned to layoff more than 1,100 employees in 2010. Chicago Breaking News Center says The labor union layoffs along with 18 percent reduction in bus service and 9 percent in train service were implemented in hopes of reducing the budget deficit for the following year. CTA management introduced more than $200 million in internal cuts as well as other cost savings and wanted unions to agree to salary and concessions however, unions representing CTA bus and rail workers refused since they agreed to concessions in the past.

The unions also felt that the “agency violated contract provisions pertaining to the seniority of full-time and part-time employees”. The unions argued that the CTA laid off too many full-time employees while retaining part-time employees. Arbitrator, Edwin Benn does want CTA to follow proper procedures in laying off workers based on seniority within their job classifications. 241 Local and 308 of the Amalgamated Transit leaders of the unions agreed to meet with the CTA management after Benn’s decision. CTA President Richard Rodriguez wanted to try and prevent the service cuts and wants to restore jobs. The union leaders were disappointed in the Arbitrator’s decision and requested to postpone the cuts for at least 30 days for seeking additional funding from the State or other options in general.

In September 2010, Rodriguez stated that the CTA was supposed to receive 83 million in bond proceeds and made an agreement to hold fares for both 2010 and 2011, but would have the freedom to raise fares if the state failed to pay public subsidies and capital funds. The CTA budget for 2011 was 5 percent higher than 2010’s budget, which was partly caused by a 3.5 percent increase in wages for union bus and rail employees. Labor costs make up 70 percent of the CTA’s budget.

Non-union CTA employees last received salary increases in 2006, however their wages were frozen this year and they had to take up to 18 unpaid furlough days and holidays to help manage the budget deficit. 100 non-unions jobs were cut this year, and an estimate of 70 jobs plan to be cut next year. Chicago Breaking News Center also says Rodriguez has tried to convince union workers to accept concessions to also help ease the annual budget and prevent future service cuts. Union leaders however stood strong on their decision since they had done it in the past and decided to allow more than 1,000 union members to be laid off.

In October of this year, According to Chicago Tribune the CTA laid of three media relations employees as part of an “agency-wide reorganization” to reduce the budget plan for 2012. It laid off the general manager of public affairs, manager of media relations as well as a spokeswoman leaving only four employees working on media relations under Sullivan. The $277 million budget deficit is projected to be cut down. $177 million would be from the senior-level position layoffs. The CTA is also hoping for 80 million worth of partly from agreements of concessions of union workers while also planning to use 80 million from its reserve fund.

By Amber Smith

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Filed under Budget, CTA employees, Finances

CTA Route Cuts

Even CTA consumers that are uninterested, unhappy, or just plain unaware of the CTA’s recent management fiasco and budget crisis have found it difficult to ignore the inconveniences created by route cuts. Since of February 6 2010, the bus service has been reduced to 1/5 of its original size. In addition, train operations have also been reduced 9% since the CTA made its route cuts to reduce the budget deficit. Consequently, these decisions have left about 1100 CTA employees out of work and many more CTA consumers unhappy about their longer commutes. Many public transportation commuting Chicagoans are still expressing their discontent through blogs, YouTube Videos, and some opinions have even made it to the pages of many newspaper articles of papers like the Chicago Tribune. In consequence, I will share with you a few details about the infamous CTA route cuts that I have come across.

First, one of the biggest hits to the bus route system was the closing of the 103-year-old Archer Garage located at 2600 W Pershing Rd, which once operated 22 bus routes on its own. On the upside, all of its bus routes did not just cease to exist, but have been distributed among the other seven remaining garages within Chicago. Also, bus operators and maintenance personnel who had worked at the Archer Garage still hold jobs within the CTA in its other garages. The only Archer Garage bus route that was eliminated as a whole was the X49 Western Express. However, as a whole there were nine express bus routes cut from the system. As a sad reminder for many commuters, the Archer Garage now sits as a storing space for old out –of- service bus batteries and their drained fluids.

Furthermore, the closing of the Archer Garage has brought other conversations such as environmental concerns and local economy to the table. Folks residing within the garage’s neighboring area feared that the garage would have environmental effects on the community. This is a reasonable fear since the garage currently has six tanks filled with either diesel fuel or lube oil underground and has already had an oil spill incident that left oil residue stuck in the soil. However, the Illinois Environmental Protections Agency (IEPA) has been working with the garage to monitor leaks and contaminations.

According to a project manager working with IEPA, soil contaminated with oil should not affect the community’s drinking supply because they should be receiving their water from the public water supply that is not affected by the local soil. In addition, local businesses are not particularly happy either since the Archer Garage bus routes brought much revenue, but will now reduce local business costumers considerably.

Additionally, train lines have faced cuts as well. In fact, all the train lines except for the yellow line have been reduced. Consequently, waiting for train rides has increased significantly and have made the commute much more crowded than before. Many CTA riders are avidly complaining that their commutes have increased up to a half an hour or more. Other riders are completely annoyed by the crowdedness of their train rides, in which they not only have to stand, but must also get out of the train to let fellow passengers out. However, there are other CTA riders who do not feel that it has been as significant of a problem that some are making it out to be. The more optimistic passengers are simply relying on bus tracking systems to make their commutes a little more reliable.

CTA route cut problems do not end with long, crowded, and nonexistent routes, but have also brought about discussion on the inequality of such cuts. The YouTube video above entitled “Rev. Jesse Jackson calls for end to inequality in CTA bus routes” illustrates some of the issues that have risen out of the CTA bus route cuts. CTA riders are speaking up against CTA decisions to cut routes important to certain communities and are claiming that it is due to the favoring of certain neighborhoods over others. Evidence that the south side of Chicago is being left out in the cold comes from buses like the Dan Ryan terminal from the south side, which makes about two or three roundtrips and for the rest of the day turns into and stays as a 151-bus route for the north side.

Rev. Jesse Jackson along with the Rainbow coalition is backing union leaders in asking that the CTA redistribute bus routes equally. With all the arising bus route issues, CTA President Richard Rodriguez has much to consider.

By Yaxal Sobrevilla

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Filed under Budget, Budget Problem, CTA employees, Multimedia, Routes

Introduction to Pension Plan Issues

Pension Problems:
CTA financial crisis arises due to the open promises made in their pension plan

Ameya Pawar argues that elected officials have not done their job in funding the CTA pension plan throughout time. These promised benefits were brought out by the government; therefore it would be unreasonable to blame the retirees and union members for the evolving Chicago Public Transit problems.

The first problem stems on what actions the city of Chicago should take in order to regain ground. Pawar explains how money is being distributed ineffectively, while half of the property tax payer’s money goes toward service debt and service pensions. Obviously, the money is scarce and Pawar argues that in order to free up some money, the service must be sustainable and efficient. By improving the system, it will allow money to go toward the pension. It is unethical to increase fares on a system that clearly doesn’t work anymore. The main priority should be getting labor and union workers on board through an improved system, while avoiding the taking away of benefits from individuals who have bought into the plan. This is a government problem, so therefore why are the residents of Chicago being penalized with increased fares and union workers with cut benefits?

An Overview:

According to the CTA Retiree Health Care Trust (RCHT), as of 2006, the CTA Retirement Plan was only 30% funded at this time. This suggests that retirees were only receiving 30% of coverage on expenses toward health care and pension payments. Through time, the CTA retiree health care plan was seen as extremely generous when compared to other public or private employers. Holding many uncommon characteristics of formerly known pensions, the CTA offered plans that were free for retirees that included a fixed premium rate for dependent coverage regardless of the number of dependents being covered in the first place. Increased health care costs caused the retirement plan to plummet, providing an even larger portion of funding for future health care costs. Changes were needed to make the design more practical.

The Illinois legislative approached the problem by passing two laws in 2006 and 2008. The first public act called for the CTA to separate the funding for retiree health care benefits from the funding for pension payments. The second public act passed in 2008 modified section 22-1018 of the Illinois Pension Code, as well as section 3-2.3 of the Illinois State Auditing Act. Some of the changes are as follows:

  1. The CTA Retiree Health Care Trust (RHCT) must be independent in providing health care benefits to retirees, their dependents and survivors. Also, the Trust must be run by a board including three union representatives picked by the CTA. The RHCT is expected to assume responsibility after January of 2009.
  2. To be eligible for a retiree health care coverage, the CTA employee must be 55 years of age and have at least ten years of service before that individual can decide to retire.
  3. Once the RHCT declares financial responsibility for retiree health care after July of 2009, then the program can not offer any plan that includes co-insurance levels higher than 90% coverage for in-network services and 70% for out-of-network services.
  4. The retiree health care benefit program must be reviewed annually to determine if there are sufficient funds to cover future responsibilities. If the current funds happen to be insufficient, then contribution increases (increased premiums) and benefits decrease (reduced coverage) to help balance the shortage within a ten year span.
  5. The total contributions received from participants, including all retirees, dependents and survivors, cannot exceed 45% of RHCT expenses in the prior plan year.
  6. Active employees will be required to contribute at least 3% of their salary to the RHCT after January of 2008.

The CTA retiree health care trust plan was established in May of 2008 and was first funded with about $529 million dollars from CTA’s pension obligation bonds. It also receives money from the following:

1. Retiree/ dependent/ survivor premium contributions: As of July 2009, the RHCT began collecting premium contributions from retirees for their coverage, while before the retirees’ only use to pay the premiums for their dependents.

2. Payroll deductions from active CTA employees: By January of 2008, all active CTA employees had a 3% cut to their gross salary.

3. Investment Returns. The trust fund balance will be invested and the income from those investments, including all of the net losses and expenses, will be returned to the fund.

The CTA RHCT was said to take full responsibility for the funding, payment and administration of health care benefits for the CTA retirees, dependents and survivors as of July 2009. While they say they are committed to offering their expertise for the best benefits for their employees, CTA still suffers problems in the present year of 2011.

By: Gia Donofrio

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Filed under Budget, Budget Problem, CTA employees, Finances, Multimedia