CHICAGO — There is good news for the Chicago Transit Authority's rail apprentices who were slated to lose their jobs at the end of 2013.
On Thursday, the CTA announced the 65 rail apprentices would continue their employment by moving to the agency's bus operation, thanks to a partnership with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241.
"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 work force," said Terry Peterson, Chicago Transit Board chairman. "This is a vital second-chance opportunity and a win-win for all involved."
In 2013, the apprenticeship program quadrupled, including 200 jobs in the bus agency and 65 in the rail system, the CTA said. The rail apprenticeship initiative provided employment opportunities for former convicts, recovering drug addicts and survivors of spousal abuse.
The CTA and other groups had earlier blamed Local 308 President Robert Kelly for the program's demise.
"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," CTA President Forrest Claypool said previously.
But Kelly has said he wanted the CTA to pay the rail workers more money. The 65 rail apprentices are dues-paying union members, but they’re paid a considerably lower wage than their union counterparts, and they don't get benefits.
“What do I say to people when I say you’re going to do the exact same work next to a guy making $25 an hour and benefits, and I'm not going to pay you benefits?" Kelly asked on "Chicago Tonight" recently.
"They're using these people to save money. Give them the right wages, health, pension, benefits. Let’s give these people a real second chance. Let’s do it. I will sign that deal tomorrow, turn these people over, and give them a real shot at life,” Kelly said.