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Chicago Transit Justice Coalition holds Hour of Power demonstration

By Eric Struch

Demonstration organized by the Chicago Transit Justice Coalition.

Chicago, IL – The Chicago Transit Justice Coalition (CTJC) is a rank-and-file opposition caucus of Chicago Transit Authority workers in Amalgamated Transit Union Locals 241/308. They publish a newsletter called Finally Got the News. The CTJC was launched in December of 2019. They encourage 241/308 members to be proactive in fighting against what Local 308 member Eric Basir describes as “tyrannical managers.”

Basir summed up the four years of CTJC history as “Six Hour of Power demonstrations, which were democratically chosen work locations. 21 total protests based on coworker initiatives. 34 radio shows and far more protests than any ATU local for decades”.

Their first demonstrations were small, three to five people at best, because both CTA management and the sellout 241/308 ATU executive board discouraged participation and retaliated against workers who showed up. But it's too late to stop the CTJC now. Their latest Hour of Power demonstration on July 14 attracted more than 20 people in the searing heat at the Forest Park Blue Line terminal. What's more is that the CTJC wasn't alone this time – a CTA rider's association called Commuters Take Action showed up, along with members of Freedom Road Socialist Organization and the Democratic Socialists of America.

CTA Customer Service Assistant and ATU 308 member Janice Brown got on the mic and pointed her remarks to the CTA: “You say you're a world-class agency, but you don't treat your employees world-class. I just want what everybody else has – I want to be able to take care of my family and be able to purchase a car if need be.”

Basir told the crowd, “We haven't had any changes to our pay for many, many years. And we're [CTA mechanics] doing multiple jobs. The servicers who clean the trains and buses, when they're sent out to the rail yards, the CTA mismanagement will not give them radios. That is totally against the contract. They don't even give them flashlights. Imagine that! You're working out on the rail yard at night and you don't have a flashlight? You need a flashlight not necessarily for you to see, but for the train operators to see you! But they don't want to give it to them, they're that cheap! Our clerks are also getting ripped off on the nighttime premium!”

There were several other speakers, all of whom condemned CTA for their anti-worker policies, which play a major role in the company's lousy worker retention rate, with an average of over 500 workers leaving or getting discharged every year. That exacerbates the already awful service CTA is infamous for. They simply don't have the staff to cover all the runs, so operators on both the bus and rail sides are doing dangerous amounts of overtime.

The CTJC and Commuters Take Action met after the Hour of Power demonstration to strategize about how to take this already strong movement to the next level. There was consensus that everyone in both organizations fully support the current strike wave sweeping north America, with a number of people wearing Teamsters Local 705 support shirts.

Chicago Transit Justice Coalition past actions:

Chicago-Area Transit Workers Radio:

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