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[These are excepts of edited notes I read at a formal discipline hearing at North Park Chicago Transit

Authority (CTA) on August 30, 2018.]

I am being charged today with a “behavioral violation” as a CTA bus driver. However, it is the CTA and
the Rahm Emanual Chicago administration that is on trial here.
I am a 12-year veteran Chicago public bus driver. I have been elected and re-elected by my coworkers
as the shop steward for over 600 bus-operator families. I am also a two-term elected executive board
member for the 10,000 working families of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 241. My coworkers
and our union is overwhelmingly African American.
In 2017, one of my coworkers, Leonard Price, another veteran bus operator, was verbally assaulted by a
caucasian male passenger who may have deliberately sought to cause a confrontation with a black bus
driver by repeatedly calling him a “n****r.” The man was ready for a physical confrontation as he
brought and attempted to use a can of mace according to the bus operator and police reports. This
attacker was arrested for felony assault of a bus driver. The CTA moved to fire the bus driver for
“getting out of his seat” and attempting to call for assistance. Leonard has made his statement public in
a video that has gone around the world here:
As he was at my bus garage, I was assigned to defend Leonard as his union steward. During the final
termination hearing, the manager (the same manager who filed this complaint against me) was
unprepared and dismissive. Arrogantly, CTA didn’t even accept our evidence of the police report,
never-mind offer to actually help prosecute the attacker. When Leonard told the senior manager what
the passenger said to him, the manager said, “I don’t care about what the customer said.” That’s a
problem. The CTA is required to maintain safe working conditions – it must care when a worker is
assaulted. A caucasian man getting on a city bus and calling a black bus driver a “n****r” is an assault
that CTA can’t wash its hands of by firing the worker! As Leonard put it in an official union grievance,
“I feel that this assault was a threat to my life and manhood because he made it clear that he felt that I
was less than a human being.” Leonard also states, “I am concerned that the CTA routinely tolerates
assaults on their employees. The CTA failed to investigate the assault against me and their
representative made it very clear that he does not care about my safety or well being. I believe that this
represents a gross failure to maintain a safe, respectful work environment.”
According to the CTA-paid internal “EEO” agent, during a break in the termination hearing, Senior
Manager Williams alleges that I “rallied the crowd against him [Manager Williams].” The paid CTA
EEO-agent stated that, “We [CTA EEOC office] don’t have anything to do with this…This is not a
violation of EEOC.” With the worker standing by my side, I certainly did let my coworkers know what
CTA was doing to one of us – I led an official union meeting with about 50 bus drivers in our lunch
room. The manager was steaming in his office and could hear the whole thing. He later filed these
charges against me for leading this union meeting.
According to the CTA “EEO” agent, the manager that fired Leonard claims that during the official
discipline interview representing Leonard, I used the word “n****r” multiple times. As a matter of fact,
this is true. As a worker’s advocate and representative, I have to recap the events leading up to the
discipline hearing. I only used this word to describe the seriousness of the assault against my coworker.
I neither harassed anyone nor called anyone any name.
To be clear, I support Title 7 (EEOC) of the 1964 Civil Rights act that was won as a victory of decades
of struggle in the Civil Right movement. By leveling this charge against me, this manager, the CTA and
the city administration are turning the law on its head. It is using it to attack those defending
themselves from racist attacks. It is a most ugly abuse of our rights. The city administration and its
representatives not only diminishes our rights, it attempts to use our rights against us!
This is also an attack on workers rights to organize.
The charges and the interview may constitute a violation of the Illinois Public Labor Relation Act.
Already we have a ruling by an administrative law judge of the Labor Board (which was appealed by
the CTA) that orders the CTA to, among other things, “Cease and desist from...Interfering with,
restraining or coercing its employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed them in the
Act...Threatening the Charging Party [Executive Board Member Erek Slater] for engaging in protected,
concerted activity…” Acting as a worker’s representative and advocate in a formal discipline hearing is
perhaps the most protected activity in this act. Perhaps even more protected is workers right to hold a
union meeting on company property led by an official elected union representative. Could they break
the law any more nakedly?
The charges and these several “interviews” may constitute a violation of the Collective Bargaining
Agreement between ATU and CTA. Specifically, the second page of our contract states (section 2.3),
“The Authority will neither discharge or discriminate against any employee covered by this Agreement
because of his or her connection with Local 241.” I was already fired illegally once for my work for our
union and our coworkers.
The CTA “EEO compliance” agent on several occasions referred to CTA’s internal administrative
procedure # 1601, “Discrimination, Harassment, Bullying, and Retaliation Complaints.” He admits that
at all times the complaint was supposed to have occurred, I was on official business for ATU Local 241.
He quoted section 3.4 of AP #1601, “Covered, consultants, vendors
and volunteers...” He argued that the Amalgamated Transit Union, the exclusive bargaining agent for
thousands of workers at CTA is a “vender.” I asked him that if the CTA received an EEO complaint
from a vendor, a bank for example, wouldn’t CTA contact the vender as a business, not the employee of
the vendor?
Because CTA is attacking the union steward who filed a grievance and helped workers take public
action against these and many other abuses, this assault by the city administration is also retribution
against and interference in workers union rights.
Before the “interview” was to start on Tuesday, August 21, two vice presidents of our union and
myself formally and in writing requested copies of all relevant information and evidence being used to
prove just cause for management to discipline me. Management claimed that they were not prepared to
present evidence(!). They claimed that only the CTA internal EEO compliance office or the Manager of
Discipline Administration at CTA HQ had this information. They asked the union for more time (after 6
months!) to “investigate.” The only thing we received was a one page document (see below). This
document, which was sent to the wrong postal and email addresses [and has the wrong date], contained
no evidence of wrong-doing even though it claimed that, “We also reviewed relevant evidence and
documentation gathered during the investigation process.” The document didn’t even contain an
accusation of wrong-doing! Further, the document appears to threaten the union if we “retaliate.” So
lets get this straight: the CTA retaliated against the union when we filed a formal written grievance
against their breaking of labor law and firing one of our members. Now they use their shadowy EEO
compliance department (which is primarily used to shield their managers and the city administration
from real civil rights EEOC claims by workers and the public) to circumvent our contract and labor
law. Management claimed that this one-page notice satisfied the union’s request for all relevant
information that was used to prove just cause for discipline. The manager stated, “That’s all you are
going to get from me. I am going to charge you. I need to close this matter out.”
This is not just a battle for principle or for our union. Nearly every week a worker from just my garage
of about 600 working families tells me they were verbally or physically assaulted while at work. More
than once a week, a worker calls me furious at how they have been demeaned or disrespected by a
manager. Nearly every week, a worker tells me they are about to crack from the pressure of these
working conditions – pressure which is largely created and intensified by management and the city
administration’s policies. Driving a city bus should be a joy, not torture! We urgently need to turn
towards positive and creative mass public action to stop these attacks which are ripping apart our
minds, our bodies and our families.
The larger issue here is the City Administrations failure to maintain a safe working environment for its
employees. The CTA and PACE suburban is part of the institutional racism of the Rahm Emanuel city
administration. Their policies actively make our work more difficult and dangerous. Their failure to
publicly defend and support us encourages more attacks against us.