The union representing Chicago Transit Authority workers has
been cleared by state appeals panel for another pass at pressing claims the CTA’s
handling of the rollout of the Ventra fare payment system violated the terms of
their labor deal.
The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241 had brought a labor complaint
to the Illinois Labor Relations Board in 2013 after the CTA implemented Ventra,
its open fare payment collection system, saying CTA eliminated union positions
and subcontracted what had been union jobs to a private company.
The ILRB dismissed the subcontracting complaint as untimely,
saying it wasn’t filed within six months of the union’s receipt of CTA’s request
for proposals for Ventra. The ILRB then dismissed the remainder because it
determined the elimination of union positions wasn’t a mandatory bargaining
The union appealed those rulings to the First District
Appellate Court, which issued its opinion March 27. Justice Mary L. Mikva wrote
the opinion; Justices Maureen E. Connors and Sheldon A. Harris concurred.
According to court documents, the dispute arose while the
CTA and union were under a tentative deal for a successor collective bargaining
agreement set to run from Jan. 1, 2012, through Dec. 31, 2015.
News of CTA’s intention to develop a Ventra-style system
surfaced on local media in 2009. On Sept. 28, 2010, CTA posted a press release
to its website announcing the RFP issuance, and the next day, CTA’s Vice
President of Human Relations Robert Gierut mailed a copy to Union President
The Regional Transportation Authority Act was amended in
July 2011, requiring CTA to develop a regional fare payment system by Jan. 1,
2015, and in November 2011, the Chicago Transit Board enacted an ordinance
identifying Cubic Transportation Systems Chicago, Inc., as the contractor, in a
12-year, $454 million arrangement. Suburban buse service Pace later joined the
program, and the entities unveiled Ventra in September 2012, slated to begin
rollout in summer 2013 with full implementation in 2014.
On Sept. 4, 2013, the CTA told the union it would eliminate
eight job classifications encompassing 24 union jobs: cashier, revenue
collector, fare media operations clerk, student riding pass representative,
treasury clerk, money handler II, money handler IV and vault service clerk. A
week later, the CTA officially eliminated the positions. The workers remained
employed, but said they were subject to lower pay, changes in work location and
schedule and loss of seniority rights. The union filed the unfair labor
practice claim on Sept. 18, 2013, a process culminating in the ILRB’s final
decision on March 11, 2016.
Mikva wrote the issue of timing of the union’s claim boils
down to whether the RFP notice constituted an “unambiguous” announcement the union
jobs would be eliminated, ultimately finding the RFP mailing, which included a
cover letter indicating only what was enclosed, to be insufficient notice.
“We find significant the CTA’s choice to say absolutely
nothing in the cover letter about its ultimate intention, when it could have
used that letter to explicitly announce its decision to subcontract bargaining
unit work,” Mikva wrote. “Such an announcement would have been the kind of
‘unambiguous’ and explicit notice that is, in our view, required to trigger the
Union’s obligation to file a charge.”
Mikva further wrote, neither the ILRB nor CTA sufficiently
addressed the union’s argument regarding whether the position eliminations were
subject to bargaining — instead raising only the timely filing objection — and remanded
that portion of the complaint back to the ILRB for consideration.
The justices agreed with the union and the administrative
law judge that the CTA fundamentally changed operations, and they said they
believed this finding led them to conclude the ALJ had erred in determining the
CTA “was exercising inherent managerial authority when it eliminated the 24
positions as part of bringing in Ventra.”