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CTA apprentices to clean buses instead of train cars

Updated: January 2, 2014 2:51PM

A group of ex-felon Chicago Transit Authority apprentices set to lose their jobs as part of a bitter dispute between the agency and the rail workers’ union now won’t be getting pink slips.

The 65 apprentices were set to lose their jobs cleaning CTA rail cars Dec. 31, but as part of an agreement reached between the transit agency and the bus union — Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241 — the workers will now clean CTA buses instead of rail cars, CTA officials announced Tuesday.

While CTA officials praised the bus union for coming to the aid of the apprentices, they blasted Robert Kelly, president of the rail workers’ ATU Local 308, accusing him of “discriminatory practices” in failing to support the apprentices.

“Despite Mr. Kelly’s commitment to end the rail car servicer 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 in a statement.

Kelly has accused the CTA of cutting funding for servicer positions, and the CTA has accused Kelly of “spreading misinformation” about its cleaning program.

On Thursday, Kelly told the Chicago Sun-Times that he’s thrilled with the new agreement.

“It’s a great deal,” Kelly said. “I’m happy. I’m delighted. Why wouldn’t I be? There’s people not being laid off.”

Kelly said he never wanted to kill the apprentice program. He wanted the chance to negotiate the terms of the program with a CTA negotiating team — something CTA officials never offered, Kelly said.

The apprentice program is one of the largest ex-offender retraining programs in the nation, according to the CTA.

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