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Justice Coalition fights for Chicago Transit Authority workers

By staff |
February 20, 2021
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Chicago, IL - The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has waged a one-sided class war against municipal transit workers. This has gone on for decades. These workers include bus operators, mechanics, bus cleaners, clerks, supervisors, flagwomen and flagmen, customer service representatives, and train operators. Their jobs are thankless. These workers have been on the receiving end of pay cuts, garbage healthcare options, and worsening workplace safety issues. They are represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union Locals 308 (trains) and 241 (buses).

The CTA executives at treat our union sisters and brothers as if they were expendable. Most think this is because the majority are oppressed nationalities, that is, Black or Latino.

It would be a mistake to think that the class war that CTA is waging against workers is something that just originated with CTA President Dorval Carter. Carter is an appointee of the CTA Board. He was put there by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. She answers to the real bosses in this city - the corporations that run the big-box stores, the warehouses, the restaurants and hotels, the convention centers and the other places of work.

These corporate leaders want cheap public transportation to get their workers to their jobs. This does not mean a fare cut for the public. No, it means the amount of tax money they're willing to allocate to run the public transportation infrastructure that we all use.

Union members are angry about how they have been treated during the pandemic. “Dorval Carter doesn’t want to spend the money it would cost to keep our union sisters, brothers and the riding public safe from COVID-19,” said Eric Struch, “They lie to us about cleaning the buses thoroughly.” CTA has had no COVID-19 testing regimen for union workers. “Despite being frontline workers, we haven't received hazard pay,” Struch exclaimed. To make matters worse, the criteria for calling in sick during the pandemic has become increasingly restrictive, so people have been coming to work sick.

Before Dorval Carter, former CTA President Forrest Claypool stripped workers of our quality healthcare. Claypool tried the same things at the Chicago Park District and Chicago Public Schools, all positions appointed by the mayor. It's all a big game to these corporate bosses.

Workers who are sick and tired of this treatment have formed the Justice Coalition, which fights for rank-and-file members of ATU Local 308 and Local 241. Justice Coalition members have restarted a rank-and-file newsletter called Finally Got the News. This name comes from a documentary film about a powerful movement of militant Black UAW workers in the 1960s.

Through all this ATU Local 241 President Keith Hill has done little. Many think he takes his orders from Dorval Carter. He has been involved in highly questionable dealings with union member money. Many union members questioned his purchase of the former Morgan Elementary School, which was done with union funds with the collusion of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's crony Jack Lanahan.

The Justice Coalition demands that CTA provide safe working conditions and hazard pay back to the start of the pandemic. We want our union leadership to join us in these demands.

The Justice Coalition’s main demand is time that our union Locals 241 and 308 return to virtual union mass meetings. The union has not had a mass membership meeting since the beginning of the pandemic, and we need to involve the rank and file in the running of our own union.

Contract negotiations are here. The contract is already expired for trains, and bus drivers will be in negotiations soon. Our power is in the unity of our members. Without us there is no CTA. We call on our union to work with us to organize to fight for better wages, better health insurance and safety on the job.

The Justice Coalition protested December 22 in an “Hour of Power” to restart union meeting virtually. ATU Local 241 President Keith Hill unfortunately refused to speak to us, instead calling the cops on us. ATU Local 308 member Eric Basir said, "The 'Hour of Power' demonstration was a loud last chance for our union presidents to re-start union meetings and help members determine their destiny." Brother Eric described the goals of the Justice Coalition and Finally Got the News as working towards "inspiring co-workers to organize and fight for their rights. We want to inspire our co-workers to make our unions feared by the powers that be."

It's time to stop cozying up to Dorval Carter and the politicians that control him. The Justice Coalition is planning another powerful public demonstration in favor of union democracy and against the CTA bosses and city bureaucrats on February 23 at the 95th Street Red Line terminal in Chicago. As our late Oakland ATU Local 192 brother Oscar "Double O" Owens would've said, "We're fired up and ready to go!"