Monday, December 2, 2013

Tribune: CTA hiring program for ex-offenders to end

You might have seen this on the Concerned Citizens of Chatham FB page recently, this program is expected to go away at the end of the year:
A program that helps ex-offenders gain work experience cleaning rail cars and buses for the Chicago Transit Authority will end Dec. 31, according to the Amalgamated Transit Union and the CTA.

The program that began in November 2007 has been in peril for several years. In 2011, it almost wasn't extended and became a bargaining chip between the union and the transit authority. And by December 2012, when the 2013 contract was finalized, no additional extension had been agreed to, dooming the program after this year.

The 65 current participants will not be allowed to finish their nine-month apprenticeships, according to CTA spokesman Steve Mayberry. He said the 65 positions are in addition to the necessary number of service workers, costing the CTA $2.9 million annually. As part of the 2011 agreement to extend the program through 2013, the CTA hired back 24 rail service workers who had been laid off during the Great Recession.

Mayberry said that while the CTA has supported the program, union Local 308 president Robert Kelly has pushed to end it. The CTA pays ex-offenders $9.50 an hour for the car and bus servicer jobs, while union workers are paid between about $13 and $30 to do the same thing.

Kelly said he had "big problems" with the program — but he also said the CTA didn't ask for an extension to it in 2012.

"The CTA had every opportunity in contract talks last year to bring it up," Kelly said. "If this program saves the CTA money, is it my job to walk in and say (can I) save you ... more?" Kelly said. "If they would have brought it up, we would have dealt with it at the time."

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