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family,” adds Sonya Davidson, 41, a customer service assistant. Dorval Carter, Jr., CTA president, acknowledges that CTA employees struggle with homeless people on vehicles and in stations, lack of bathroom access while driving, and contract situations. The CTA also provided Echo with a statement that the CTA “is dedicated to providing safe and comfortable working conditions for all of our employees, a commitment we work toward every day.” When she started, Davidson imagined advancing beyond her customer service

assistant title. She now says she’s “pigeonholed” into her position. “For me, it was never a goal to stay in [this] position, per se,” Davidson says. “It was supposed to be a stepping stone or a catalyst to something better.” Lane says the union filed grievances and unfair labor practices against the CTA, and notes that working condition problems are hardly unique to transit workers. “We feel that if we win this fight in the labor movement, that this will be a fight for most workers all over America. It starts with us but it doesn’t end with us.”

Sonya Davidson (above), 41, a customer service assistant, complains about the lack of trash cans in the station restrooms. When she is menstruating, she says, she has to wrap her used pads in tissues and take them with her. “You just do what you have to do while you’re there in the station,” Davidson says. But that frustration doesn’t compare to the difficult customers who challenge her authority and demand courtesy rides. “You’re put in a position [to decide], ‘Am I letting the next raper, robber, stealer, killer on the train by giving them a courtesy ride?’” Davidson says. “That is the thought you have to have

every day. You really don’t know who you’re putting on this train. As simple as it sounds, it’s just as difficult as it is to make that decision. This is not a textbook scenario by any means— someone yelling in your face or threatening your person.” Ferradaz states there are comprehensive procedures and training in place at the CTA for employees to learn how to report and respond to incidents that happen while working. Employees have two-way radios and the CTA has a “close working relationship,” Ferradaz says, with the Chicago Police Department and Chicago Fire Department.


Columbia College Chicago ECHO 2017