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Posted by on Dec 23, 2016 in Activism | 0 comments

CTA to expand ex-offender jobs program

CTA to expand ex-offender jobs program


Jakeshia Beals, 31, said when she arrived at the CTA nearly three years ago, she was homeless and looking for work.
Beals, who was arrested for drug crimes, began work at a South Side rail shop as part of the CTA’s “second chance” program that gives jobs to ex-offenders and hard-to-employ individuals. Nine months later, she worked at the CTA’s 74th Street bus garage.
Beals, now a CTA manager, returned to that bus garage Friday morning to help announce the CTA’s expansion of the “second chance” progam to include training on how to fix diesel engines in buses starting next month.
“This program has changed my life tremendously,” Beals said at the press conference, which was attended by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D) and Mayor Emanuel.
The program currently offers 265 jobs to clean rail cars and service buses to ex-offenders, individuals completing drug-abuse programs, victims of domestic violence and others. CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said there will be no additional cost for the diesel mechanic course, which will last six months.
The program has gone through some changes over the years. The rail apprentice program was temporarily suspended at the end of 2013 because of a dispute between CTA management and the local rail union Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308. The program was reinstated last year.
Workers are paid at a rate of $9.50 per hour and may work up to 40 hours per week.
Participants may serve for 12 months or longer in the program, under CTA rules. Currently, all terms are scheduled to end Dec. 31.
When the program is over, workers in good standing receive a certificate of completion and letter of reference from the CTA and are encouraged to apply for CTA vacancies.
CTA president Forrest Claypool said at Friday’s press conference that 113 of the program’s 500-plus participants have been hired permanently by the CTA. Seven of these hirees, including Beals, have become managers.
“This is a critical, critical opportunity,” Claypool said.
Beals, who lives on the South Side in the South Chicago community, said she was hired as a rail servicer in November 2013 and was promoted to rail car director in 2014. In July 2014, she was earning $60,750 a year, according to CTA records.
The CTA announcement comes less than two weeks before the April 7 run-off election between Mayor Emanuel and Cook County commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. The city’s unemployment rates, especially on the West and South Sides, has been an election issue.
CTA expanding ex-offender program
March 07, 2013|By Hal Dardick, Chicago Tribune reporter
Michael Russell is training to become a bus driver, just a few years after doing hard time for selling crack cocaine, thanks to a CTA program that’s being quadrupled in size, the transit agency announced Wednesday.
Michael Russell is training to become a bus driver just a few years after doing hard time for selling crack cocaine, thanks to a CTA program that the transit agency plans to quadruple in size.
On Wednesday, a teary-eyed Russell told reporters about his raised stature in the eyes of his three children. The change, he said, is a direct result of the CTA Apprenticeship Program for nonviolent offenders.
“This was the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Russell, a 38-year-old Auburn Gresham resident. “If it wasn’t for this program, I don’t know where I’d be.”
In 2009, Russell joined the CTA program while on work release after doing three years in prison for selling crack. He cleaned train cars at O’Hare International Airport. One day he was sent to a CTA facility in Rosemont, where a manager noticed his hard work, CTA President Forrest Claypool said.
That recognition led to a full-time position, and now, after getting a commercial driver’s license, he’s training to become a part-time bus driver. Of 322 people in the program since August 2008, 15 have landed full-time CTA jobs and 114 have gotten jobs elsewhere as a result of the job training and social services offered by the CTA and nonprofit agencies, officials said.
The CTA has 65 slots for ex-offenders to clean trains. An additional 200 will be hired to clean buses, Claypool said. The CTA chief announced the program expansion at a news conference called by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to trumpet the development. They were surrounded by West Side pastors who minister to thousands of ex-offenders.
“If you want to make sure that an ex-offender does not become a repeat offender, you have to have job opportunities for them to prove themselves,” Emanuel said. “And that’s what this program does.”
hdardick@tribune.com
Twitter @ReporterHal
Groups to CTA Union: Save Ex-Offender Jobs Program
The Rev. Autry Phillips, director of the Target Area Development Corp. social justice group, wants to help rescue a CTA program that gives temporary jobs to nonviolent ex-offenders. View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Casey Cora
GARFIELD PARK — The bid to save part of an apprenticeship program that gives CTA jobs to ex-offenders began with a prayer asking city and union leaders to spare a vulnerable minority population from yet more struggle.
“This successful program will not be available to ex-offenders coming home from prison. It will make it even harder for them to find employment to support themselves and their families,” said the Rev. Autry Phillips, with Target Area Development Corp., a grassroots social justice community group based in Auburn Gresham.
The transit agency’s apprentice program, started in 2007, hires 65 nonviolent ex-offenders for nine-month stints cleaning the interiors of CTA rail cars for $9.50 an hour. It’s been hailed by community leaders as a “lifeline” and a springboard, giving participants a chance to build a resume with real job skills.
City officials expanded the program last year, quadrupling it to 265 jobs and reportedly making it one of the largest job re-entry programs in the nation.
But some of the jobs will be axed Tuesday. The 65 positions on the block are part of the Amalgamated Transit Union’s Local 308 headed by Bob Kelly, who has so far refused to extend the program.
“He can save the program, literally himself, with the stroke of a pen,” said CTA spokesman Steve Mayberry. “For the first time in the history of American labor, you have the president of a labor union pushing people out of work.”
Kelly has said he wants the CTA to pay the rail workers more money. The 65 rail apprentices are dues-paying union members, but they’re paid a considerably lower wage than their union counterparts and don’t get benefits.
“What do I say to people when I say you’re going to do the exact same work next to a guy making $25 an hour and benefits, and I’m not going to pay you benefits,” Kelly said on “Chicago Tonight” recently. “They’re using these people to save money. Give them the right wages, health, pension, benefits. Let’s give these people a real second chance. Let’s do it. I will sign that deal tomorrow, turn these people over, and give them a real shot at life.”
But Mayberry called the issue of raising wages a “nonstarter” because the program isn’t part of the union contract, and the jobs are temporary by design.
Still, placing blame for the program’s looming demise didn’t seem to concern the community leaders who gathered outside the CTA’s West Side bus terminal on a bitterly cold Monday morning.
“We understand the role of unions to protect the rights of union members; nevertheless we as the community have been charged to protect all of our citizens in the community, including ones that have made a mistake and have paid their debt to society,” a coalition of community groups said in a statement.
Phillips said he was hoping to rally more community support to land a meeting with Kelly and representatives from Local 308. Kelly could not immediately reached for comment.
As of Monday afternoon, the meeting hadn’t been scheduled.

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