CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Transit Authority bus drivers staged Wednesday a small protest at CTA Headquarters, in the West Loop, demanding that the agency build staff proper bathrooms along routes and do away with the use of port-a-potties.

CTA bus drivers are fed up with using port-a-potties along their routes due to the facilities’ conditions, WBBM’s Mike Krauser reports.

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The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241, representing the drivers, said the issue has come up, in the past, at the bargaining table and they are taking it public now because of a lack of movement by the CTA.

The port-a-potties are nasty, cold, dark, unsafe and unsanitary, said Tommy Sams, President of The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241.

“Drivers decide not to relieve themselves,” Sams said. “And even in a few cases they have resorted to wearing diapers.”

Most drivers are women, who have a higher chance of health problems caused by lack of restroom access and lack of sanitary restroom conditions, the union said.

“The current portable bathrooms the CTA bought are the bottom dollar model, they don’t even have running water or heat, and often the hand sanitizer is empty or broken,” Sams said in a ATU statement. “This is an absolute disrespect to the workers who move nearly one million Chicagoans everyday.”

CTA Port-a-Potty without hand sanitizer (ATU/Abigail Agriesti)

CTA Port-a-Potty without hand sanitizer (ATU/Abigail Agriesti)

Reverend C.J. Hawking spoke at the protest, standing with drivers. She said as a woman, she finds the conditions to be outrageous and as a pastor, finds it immoral.

“The fact that this is being negotiated at the bargaining table is absolutely absurd and an insult,” Rev. Hawking said.

35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez Rosa also stood with drivers.

“Being able to use the bathroom, being able to take a bathroom break is a fundamental right for any worker,” Ald. Ramirez Rosa said.

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CTA Port-a-Potty with poor conditions (ATU/Abigail Agriesti)

CTA Port-a-Potty with poor conditions (ATU/Abigail Agriesti)

Ken Franklin, ATU Local 308 President/ Business Agent, who represents over 3,000 rail operators, mechanics, maintenance, and operations in Chicago, lent is support.

“Transit workers are one the most likely groups of workers to be affected by restroom access,” Franklin said in a statement. “The CTA answers this by absolutely disrespecting us. My sisters and brothers who operate our buses deserve better.”

The union is hoping the Chicago Transit Authority will “find a better solution to this problem, one that doesn’t totally disrespect the workers.”

Franklin said he was told by the CTA it would cost a million dollars per bathroom.

WBBM reached out to the CTA for a response to this protest. The CTA said it is upgrading the port-a-potties but says building permanent restrooms is a logistic and financial challenge.

CTA full response:

“CTA always focuses on the comfort and safety of its bus and rail operators, and we share the union’s desire to improve these facilities. In fact, some older, smaller portable units are already being replaced, and CTA is exploring other possible improvements.

Every bus and rail operator has access to multiple restroom facilities along their routes. CTA is already working with the union to improve the small number of portable restroom facilities used to supplement nearly 100 other permanent restroom options available for operators.

Building permanent restroom facilities is a logistic and financial challenge. When bus routes are adjusted, as they often are, CTA would be unable to move any permanent restroom facility to accommodate that change, making it useless to our operators. For that reason and others, we are already working with the union to address this issue and are concentrating on upgrading the portable facilities currently made available to operators, which are the same type found in myriad outdoor settings, including construction sites, park facilities and outdoor festivals.

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We look forward to continuing our ongoing discussions with the union regarding this important issue.”