Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=154127
Story Retrieval Date: 5/19/2013 6:26:00 AM CST
They gathered outside CTA headquarters Wednesday, waving signs that read
“No Service,” “Stop Service Cuts,” “What’s next? Privatization?” and “Equal Transportation for All.”
They beat buckets with drumsticks. They chanted into the chilly morning. They were union members and transit employees, transit-dependent riders and community activists. They all marched in protest of CTA service cuts that take effect Feb. 7.
The CTA faces a $300 million budget deficit, due in part to a 30 percent loss in public funding.
As a result, the CTA will cut nearly 1,100 jobs, eliminate nine express bus routes, run service less often on 119 routes and shorten hours on 41 bus routes.
“We have had to make some very difficult decisions, including service reductions,” said CTA President Richard L. Rodriguez to the CTA board. “Although we are doing this to protect the long-term health of the CTA, when the service reductions begin in a few weeks it will be a challenging time for the CTA and its customers.”
Protesters outside CTA headquarters Wednesday and union leaders inside seemed to think the CTA should make its cuts elsewhere.
“[The CTA] is quite top-heavy,” said Robert Kelly, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308. “The employee’s part of the service has dwindled over and over, and the management has quadrupled over and over. Obviously they are less concerned with service than they are with having someone up there earning a nice paycheck.”
The CTA says it wouldn’t be forced to make such drastic cuts if union employees would only take furlough days and forgo scheduled salary raises.
“We have given them options and at this point in time all union employees have been given their raises this year,” Rodriguez said. “The hopes were that they would consider not distributing those as our non-union employees and other employees throughout the city have.”
CTA Board Chairman Terry Peterson said the union should do more to be a part of the solution.
“At the end of the day, the unions could really help us out by coming to the table and coming up with some concessions,” Peterson said. “This in turn would help us from keeping a lot of these service reductions from happening and, more importantly, save hundreds of jobs of union employees who would be laid off without their help.”