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redeyechicago.com

CTA to keep employing imperiled rail car cleaners

Agency spokesman says workers from apprenticeship program will be transferred into similar jobs cleaning buses

By Dan Hinkel, Tribune reporter

9:44 PM CST, January 1, 2014

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After weeks of public disagreement between Chicago Transit Authority officials and union leaders over a program that has given felons jobs cleaning rail cars, a transit agency spokesman said Wednesday night that workers from the program would be transferred into jobs cleaning buses.

CTA spokesman Brian Steele said he couldn't give details, citing an announcement planned for Thursday morning, but he confirmed that workers from the rail car servicer apprenticeship program would be moved into a CTA bus-cleaning program. Steele said he could not say how many workers would be transferred.

Steele's confirmation followed a news release announcing the plan from Robert Kelly, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, which represents rail workers.

The union and the agency accused one another of putting the rail car program in peril. Agency officials alleged union intransigence, while Kelly said he wanted the program to continue but with the workers — who were making $9.50 an hour without health care coverage — getting better pay and benefits.

About the transfer to the bus-cleaning program, Steele said the CTA has a "cooperative relationship" with bus employees' union representatives.

Founded in 2007, the rail car servicer apprenticeship program has served some 800 people, including those with nonviolent criminal convictions and domestic abuse victims, among others, Steele said.

dhinkel@tribune.com