The assignment: Attached is a press clip from the Chicago Sun-Times on November 5, 2009, with the headline, “Bus driver strike over layoffs an ‘option’.” Also attached is an arbitrators ruling establishing the provisions of the current contract. Do you think the CTA unions should strike over the issue of layoffs? List and explain your reasons.

The class: Transportation Management

I think it is too early to form an opinion on the situation with the facts given. The newspaper article states that the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has not yet communicated to the bus operator union what concessions it wants from the members.

However, I have developed a preliminary opinion based on the arbitration agreement and the contract between employer and employee.

The CTA has an obligation to honor its contract and the binding arbitration agreement (AA). The contract and AA stipulates that the CTA provide specific raises in specific years to all employees in the two unions (Amalgamated Transit Union Locals 241 and 208). I believe that for the CTA to continue honoring the terms of this contract, that is, to continue providing raises to the bus operators, then the CTA must reduce its workforce (along with other “balance modification” measures like cutting service and raising fares).

I am not often supporting of unions and I have never been a member of one, I believe the bus operators union will do itself a disservice by striking. It signals to City and State representatives they’re unwilling to continue negotiations with the CTA or a mediator, and that they cannot accept that the CTA, while working hard to increase organization and operational efficiencies, will be unable to pay the salaries of so many “extra” employees because there will be less buses and routes to operate. I shouldn’t have to mention the ill will the CTA’s customers might develop towards the bus operators and the transit agency.

The union must also follow the procedures in their contract that, according to the newspaper article, requires them to submit to binding arbitration. Additionally, this may also harm the union and its members by requiring them to accept a less-than-desirable situation about their jobs.

I found that the Chicago Civic Federation, a non-partisan organization of citizens concerned about the city’s financial well-being, supports the CTA’s plan to reduce service and raise fares, as announced in the CTA’s fiscal year 2010 budget (press release). The Civic Federation calls the cuts and increases a fair approach that balances responsibility on management, union staff, and customers.

I agree with their position that all parties “must make sacrifices.”

In these trying budgetary times, all parties, to garner the most effective support, must ensure they reference only facts so as not to deceive or confuse the public. Facts will also allow the parties to communicate effectively and keep the public’s suspicion at bay. I wrote in the fourth assignment that the CTA should launch a marketing campaign (in order to improve their public image) that seeks to inform the public with simple facts about the agency, the breadth and cost of services it provides, but most importantly describes how it receives funding from Illinois residents through sales and real estate taxes, but also through grants. Additionally, they would discuss the efforts they’ve undertaken in the past few years to increase efficiency in all aspects of the agency.

Lastly, I would like to suggest that the unions spend an equal amount of time, effort and money on persuading elected officials to work on a plan that fixes our regional transit issues and keeps bus operators employed. Transit can be an economic and community development tool when looked at in the context of total transportation management that recognizes the economic detriment of traffic congestion, dangerous streets, pollution, and carbon emissions.