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The man who boarded the train at the Wilson Red Line stop wasn’t wearing a mask — not even one slung loosely around his neck.
He paid no attention to social distancing rules, holding onto a pole and standing less than six feet from another, masked passenger. His behavior drew anxious stares from other passengers.
“Why are you staring at me?” the unmasked man said at one point. “I can see you staring at me.”
The man was one of several passengers seen not wearing a mask during an hourlong trip from the Howard Street station to downtown this week — despite the ubiquitous signs reminding riders to do so, per Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive order.
The situation is often even worse on CTA buses, and it’s why bus and train operators are applauding the new federal mask requirement for travelers on public transportation and airplanes — but also wondering what good it does without strict enforcement.
“We are ecstatic about the president stepping up. ... It’s been an ongoing problem since the pandemic,” said Keith Hill, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241, which represents bus employees.
Hill said he’s heard complaints of passengers spitting at drivers who dare remind them they must wear a mask. So the union advises drivers not to confront passengers and that, Hill says, is what the CTA also recommends.
“We are constantly looking over our shoulders,” Hill said.
When drivers call police to resolve a situation, it brings its own set of problems, Hill said.
“It’s a time-consuming thing because they don’t come right away,” he said. “You might spend 30 minutes sitting there. Now you are opening yourself up to other things.”
What’s needed, Hill said, are dedicated officers to handle enforcement.
The Transportation Security Administration, according to a Jan. 31 “security directive,” appears to be the agency responsible for handling any “significant security concern,” but it’s not clear how that works in practice.
But Jessica Mayle, a regional spokeswoman for the TSA, said in an email: “Local law enforcement would be the first contact to handle issues on local Chicago transportation. This federal requirement reinforces preexisting local efforts.”
Eric Dixon, president of ATU Local 308, which represents CTA train operators, said a federal mandate won’t change much.
“All [operators] can do is ask,” Dixon said. “We’re not the police or anything, so we can’t make people put on a mask.”
The CTA issued a statement saying it is “revising its extensive messaging to reflect that the mask requirement is also now a federal mandate. Our website, onboard and platform announcements will also be updated. The CTA is working with transit agencies across the country to get further guidance and clarification” from federal agencies.
The CTA added that it will report incidents to the TSA, as outlined in the guidelines.
Bob Guy is state legislative director for SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, which represents Metra conductors. The mandate is something “we absolutely welcome and hope all passengers take to heart,” Guy said.
“From what I hear from our folks ... the overwhelming majority of Metra ridership is more than happy to wear their masks,” he said.
But he’s concerned about enforcement when a passenger won’t wear a mask.
“Other passengers are going to look to the conductor or onboard personnel to try to enforce that, and there’s simply nothing we can do about that. That’s left up to the owner/operators, which in this case would be Metra,” Guy said.
Michael Gillis, a Metra spokesman, said compliance with the state mask mandate has been “extremely high.” He said Metra has relied on an “educational” approach rather than kicking noncompliant passengers off trains.
“At this point, we are hoping we will continue to see voluntary compliance without the need for increased enforcement. We are not expecting TSA agents to be on our trains,” Gillis said.
During Tuesday’s CTA Red Line ride from Howard Street to Chicago Avenue, most passengers donned face coverings — surgical masks, cloth, even some N95 masks, with some opting for double masks, as is now suggested. But a handful left masks below their nose or chin or took them off to eat.
Cars were nearly empty, with perhaps half a dozen riders per car during various rides Tuesday afternoon. Most spread out, as is urged on window stickers reminding passengers to socially distance from other commuters.
At Argyle, a maskless man sat on the train feet away from a CTA worker who had her back to him.
At the Fullerton platform, one CTA worker wore no mask, one wore his mask below his chin and another had his below his nose.
Hidden behind a billboard, one rider moved her mask below her chin to speak on the phone while another nearby did the same to smoke.
While no maskless riders were seen going through turnstiles onto the platform by CTA workers, only one maskless man was confronted during the trip — and by a fellow passenger, not a CTA worker.
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CTA union members rally to bring awareness to violence against employees, transit riders
CHICAGO — A group of CTA workers, who are part of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, rallied Wednesday from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. to bring awareness to the violence their employees and CTA riders have been experiencing.
The union is primarily train operators, flag workers, customer service representatives and maintenance workers.
The union president says his members feel it’s unsafe to come to work because they aren’t being protected.
Union President Eric Dixon was at the rally, along with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago police Supt. David Brown.
“My members are tired,” Dixon said. “I have some members who are afraid to come to work because of the violence. So we are at a point now [that] something has to be done.”
Just last week, a man was shot and killed on a northbound Red Line train near the Garfield stop. Police said three men approached him and one of the men opened fire.
In July, University of Chicago student Max Lewis was hit and killed by a stray bullet on a Green Line train near 51st Street in Washington Park.
Others have been robbed and beaten.
“We want it to stop,” said Deborah Lane, ATU Illinois President. “Our police are tired and we are tired.”
On Tuesday, the union president says a man was charged in connection to a hammer attack on the CTA Red Line.
In February 2020, Lightfoot announced she would add 50 new officers to the police department’s Public Transportation Unit, in addition to several hundred officers who were already patrolling the CTA. But the union president says now there are only roughly 120 officers in that unit, breaking down to about 30 officers per shift across the system.
They say violence on members is their main concern, but they’re also worried about rider safety and say they need a larger police force to deter it, or it will continue to happen.
“We hear you, we stand with you and we’ll send more resources here to make sure your issues are addressed. We are obligated to protect you and we’re here in solidarity with you,” Supt. Brown said.
Lightfoot said she is also committed to working with the union to better protect members and riders.
“These men and women risk their lives every single day throughout the pandemic to do their job on buses, trains, keeping the platforms clean,” she said. “We owe them a debt of gratitude. The best way we can repay that is to not bring violence onto the CTA.”
The union members will be back for another rally from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.Sours: https://wgntv.com/news/chicago-news/cta-union-members-rally-to-bring-awareness-to-violence-against-employees-transit-riders/
Women first come to the fore in the Amalgamated Transit Union three years after its formation, not as members, but as an organization that supported Amalgamated men and their families.
The 1895 International Convention marked the beginnings of what would become the Amalgamated’s Women’s International Auxiliary. Wives, daughters and sisters of members of the streetcar workers in Saginaw had formed a local division auxiliary and told the Convention they desired to extend their influence and work throughout the United States and Canada.
Their requests were honored and a General Constitution and Laws for the Auxiliary was adopted. It would not be until 1937, however, that an International Women's Auxiliary was formally established. The Auxiliary would contribute substantially to the lives of Amalgamated workers – particularly during strikes and job actions – until its dissolution in 1990.
Early ATU women
In addition to Josephine Casey, another founding member of Local 308, Clara Murphy, was a steward in the Local Union. When her funeral benefit was paid in 1904, it was probably the first time a death benefit was paid to a woman member.
Another founding member of Local 308, Lela Scott, was a delegate to the Ninth International Convention held in Chicago in 1905. She was appointed a member of the Committee on Resolutions and was the first woman member to be nominated to international office as one of three candidates for the office of fourth international vice president. According to the convention proceedings, she withdrew her candidacy.
In 1904, a spirited debate in TheMotorman and Conductor took place over the issue of women members.
In an article entitled “Women’s Place,’’ a correspondent from Pennsylvania stated that the majority belief was “a woman’s place is at home, where she reigns supreme in undisputed power....,” and lamented that women should not be taking men’s jobs. It concluded that: “Women, no matter how competent, cannot command the same salary as men, and if they engage themselves in our occupation to a large extent, we certainly would be compelled to consider them our enemies.”
In the next issue, a response appeared from Josephine Casey, the Local 308 officer, which pointed out the “law of self-preservation” governs all Amalgamated members and that for men and women, married and single, working was a necessity.
Gender-neutral language proposed in 1905
The issue of gender-neutral language was first raised at the 1905 International Convention in Chicago. A delegate from Local 308 called attention to the fact that since “our Union now included ladies in its membership,” the distinctive pronouns “he and she” should be inserted in the Ritual. His suggestion was never made into a motion. It was not until after the 48th Convention in 1986 that the Constitution was revised with gender-inclusive language.
Amalgamated supports women’s suffrage in 1909
At our Eleventh International Convention in Toronto in 1909, a delegate from Lowell, MA, introduced a resolution that the Amalgamated place itself on record as favoring “women’s suffrage as a means of their emancipation.”
The Committee on Resolutions reported favorably on the resolution and recommended its adoption.
This triggered a fiery debate upon the floor of the Convention with opponents arguing, “Women have been well cared for by men. To give them the ballot and its power will fill the courts... so full of divorce cases that they would have no time to try the criminals.”
Supporters of the resolution argued that women who successfully direct their home should have “equal rights with men, who are brought into manhood under their guidance.” The resolution supporting suffrage was passed by the delegates.
Women among Boston ‘Carmen’ organized in 1912
The Amalgamated accepted its next group of women members in 1912 when the employees of the Boston Elevated Railway Company were organized.
There were approximately 7,000 to 8,000 employees working on the Boston system, more than 2,500 of whom signed up when the charter was issued to Local 589 on May 22, 1912. Within two weeks, the company had discharged 80 union activists and supporters.
When efforts to bring about their reinstatement failed, the Local declared a lockout.
A boycott of the Boston system was called by AFL affiliates. After a difficult seven weeks, a settlement was reached.
In reporting on the strike, Local 589’s correspondent to The Motorman and Conductor lauded the support of women employees for their active participation in the union meetings. When the Local held its first election in October 1912, the women voted 100 percent strong.
Mother Jones addresses 1913 Convention
At our Thirteenth International Convention in 1913 in Salt Lake City, there were women delegates representing both Local 308 in Chicago and Local 589 in Boston. The delegates were also privileged to hear the legendary Mary “Mother” Jones, who spoke to the gathering as a special representative for the Western Federation of Miners to make a request for a loan of $1,000.
The Convention quickly complied, and the Chair responded, “Mother Jones may carry back a message from this Convention.... Say to them our sympathies financially, morally and every other way, are with the miners.” Jones “extended hearty appreciation” for the action.
For many years in the United States, Mary Jones was the “mother” of the modern labor movement. And she arrived on the scene of many Amalgamated strikes to offer inspiration and encouragement to our members.
When she died at the age of 100, near where ATU’s international headquarters stands today, W.D. Mahon paid her an elegant tribute when he stated: “Her every heartbeat was for humanity.... She could soothe and wipe away the tears of a weeping and discouraged wife; caress and encourage children; inspire the crowd and denounce the police and Pinkertons in the same breath. Her life’s work and struggle for humanity will live and illuminate the pages of the labor history of America ....”
By 1918, 500 women were members of Local 308, and 200 were members of Local 589.
Women become members in World Wars I and II
As the men went off to fight in World War I, there began a two-year debate in The Motorman and Conductor about whether the women should be able to replace male transit workers during the war.
It was not a debate about women’s rights. It centered on protecting womanhood from barbaric and ruthless employers – the very same who oppressed the men. The suggestion by street railway companies to employ women as conductors was viewed by some as an attempt to send women back to “the days of the savages.” The magazine referred to these efforts as unpatriotic and tyrannical.
Two months later, Local 589, which had been founded with women members fighting in the strike for recognition, reported that it had adopted a resolution opposing women as conductors on the Boston elevated system because this work “degraded American womanhood.”
‘Absolutely opposed to the employment of women’
At the Fifteenth International Convention held in Providence, RI, in 1917, there was one woman delegate, Anna Dolan, from Local 308. The delegates adopted a resolution “absolutely opposed to the employment of women as motormen, brakemen, or conductors upon the street railways in the United States or Canada.” The sole dissenting vote was cast by Anna Dolan.
Shortly after the Convention, a correspondent from Local 22-Worcester, MA, reported that the newspapers in that city had begun discussing the hiring of female operators and stated that the Local Union was “solidly opposed to the idea.”
Finally, in August 1918, the General Executive Board recognized that due to the war many companies would not survive unless women were employed and adopted a policy on women. The policy stated that if it became necessary to employ women, Local Divisions would not oppose such plans as long as the employer met the following conditions:
1. Where women are employed as conductors, they shall be employed and enter the service the same as men were employed.
2. They shall take their seniority at the foot of the extra list and work up like men.
3. They shall be entitled to the same guarantees, wages and conditions as men.
4. They shall have the same membership requirements and shall be entitled to the same contract protections as men.
The position taken by the GEB in 1918 was meant only for the duration of the war. At the same time as the GEB took its position, the trade union movement, including the Amalgamated, was at the forefront of the movement to give women the right to vote, to pass 10- and 8-hour-day legislation for women workers, and to pass child labor laws.
Surprised and dismayed
After the war, labor union leaders were surprised and dismayed when the League of Women Voters argued that women should retain the conductor and motormen positions on the street railways.
As World War I came to an end, the General Executive Board passed a motion opposing legislation to employ women as operators on the transit system.
“[I]t is the sense of the Board that the Association is unalterably opposed to the enactment of any law... providing for employment of women as motormen and conductors....”
When the war ended, men mostly replaced women in the jobs they had held during World War I. Women workers on transit systems (other than in Chicago and Boston) became virtually nonexistent.
Women were again hired as transit operators in the United States and Canada during World War II, and again, mostly left the industry after the war. But, some hung on, working until their retirements decades later.
Women, again, started working as transit operators in greater numbers in the 1970s, and this time it stuck. Consequently, the number of women ATU members increased as well.
First woman international officer
In 1986, International President Jim La Sala appointed Local President Karen Moore, 1307-St. Louis, MO, the first woman international representative of ATU. Moore, an African-American, joined Local 1307 in 1970, and served as an office representative of the local members from 1976 until her election as local president in 1978. La Sala appointed Moore the first woman international vice president in 1994. She was subsequently elected and re-elected to that position until her retirement in 2006.
As more women became active in local union affairs and successfully pursued candidacies for local union office, women from ATU Local Unions began attending ATU women’s conferences. The first such conference was sponsored in 1987, by the Women’s Committee of Local 998-Milwaukee, WI. During two days of speeches and workshops, the issue of women becoming more active and involved in union affairs was stressed. At the fourth such conference, held in Cleveland, OH, in 1990, the attendees voted to form and adopted bylaws for a permanent organization – the ATU Women's Caucus.
Woman in ATU, today
Today, four women sit on the General Executive Board of ATU international vice presidents, and countless more serve as officers of ATU Local Unions.
Women have come a long way in ATU from the days when their presence behind the wheel was a matter of some controversy, and most will tell you they have a long still to go. ATU will be behind them as the battle for equality in the workplace and in society at large.
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