CTA, Bus Union Save Rail Car Apprentices’ Abilities to Support Their Families by Allowing Them to Become CTA Bus Apprentices

January 2, 2014

Ex-offenders, others trying to turn around their lives were faced with losing their jobs from rail union leader’s refusal to continue second-chance program

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), in partnership with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 241, today announced that 65 individuals working as rail car apprentices, who were slated to lose their jobs Dec. 31, have been moved to the agency’s bus operations to continue their employment. The move comes after Robert Kelly, President of ATU Local 308—the union representing rail workers—continually refused to continue the life-changing program. 

The CTA’s apprenticeship initiative provides employment opportunities for ex-offenders, recovering drug addicts, survivors of spousal abuse and others. Mr. Kelly’s inaction threatened to put hard-working individuals trying to turn their lives around out of work.

The CTA in 2013 quadrupled its apprentice opportunities to include 265 jobs—200 bus apprentice opportunities along with 65 rail apprentice positions. Unfortunately, despite CTA’s repeated attempts to save the rail initiative, Mr. Kelly’s refusal to preserve the car servicer program has resulted in a loss of 65 of those opportunities. 

As a result, although 65 apprentices will be able to complete their second chance opportunity to rebuild their careers and their lives by providing honestly for their families, Mr. Kelly's decision to terminate the Local 308 program means that hundreds of individuals from this region’s poorest neighborhoods will be denied that opportunity in the coming years—325 over the course of just five years—which is a travesty and a tragedy.

In the CTA’s bus apprentice program, these workers will continue to rebuild their lives by becoming bus servicer apprentices, cleaning and detailing CTA buses while learning valuable job skills that they might not get elsewhere, and which will allow them to build resumes and careers.

“Despite Mr. Kelly’s commitment to end the rail car servicer apprentice program and put his own union members out of work, we’ve been able to work with Local 241’s leadership to find a place for these individuals, guaranteeing them the opportunity to work and put food on their families’ tables for another year,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “While this program provides benefits to our transit customers, it also provides a great benefit to our society. By getting ex-offenders into the workforce, the CTA is able to help Chicagoans increase self-sufficiency and reduce recidivism.”

Over the past several months, civil rights leaders from across the Chicago area, including the Chicago Urban League, along with prominent African-American elected officials such as Congressmen Bobby Rush and Danny Davis, the City Council black caucus, and leaders in the state Senate have called on Mr. Kelly to set aside his discriminatory practices and represent these apprentices—his dues-paying union members—and those who have yet to come behind them seeking their second chance in life.

Effective immediately, the CTA will migrate workers whose rail apprenticeships were due to continue past the end of 2013 into the bus servicer apprenticeships. As bus servicer apprentices, these individuals will now join Local 241 as dues-paying members of the bus union.

“We would like to thank Local 241 for being a great partner in CTA’s effort to serve our customers while also making an impact on the community by helping those who need it most to find a way back into the workforce,” said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Terry Peterson. “This is a vital second-chance opportunity and a win-win for all involved.”

The CTA’s program is one of the largest ex-offender retraining programs in the nation and provides job opportunities to individuals convicted of non-violent crimes, those completing drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, victims of domestic abuse, and others.

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