CHICAGO—(ENEWSPF)—February 11, 2016. CTA bus and rail workers, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Locals 241 (Bus) and 308 (Rail) Officials, Chicago Teacher Union members and community supporters held a press conference today at the CTA headquarters in support of ATU Local 241 elected Executive Board Member, Union Steward and 10 year veteran Bus Operator Erek Slater in his fight to stop CTA from firing him for trying to uphold the democratic rights of union members.
The hearing for termination of the Executive Board Member, Erek Slater, was held at 10 am. The CTA refused, in blatant violation of labor law, to recognize that Mr. Slater was acting as a union steward when he initiated an inquiry into a possible violation of the contract on the request of his coworker. Mr. Slater was vigorously defended by his union steward as well as all of the vice-presidents of ATU local 241 who strongly opposed the position of the CTA. The 1st Vice President of ATU local 308 was denied access to the hearing, according to Mr. Slater.
Mr. Slater stated, “CTA management told us that I was fired for “insubordination” because I told a manager to “cease and desist” from breaking our contract while acting in my capacity and responsibility as a union steward defending our collective bargaining agreement. This is a declaration of war against workers’ rights to organize and act collectively.” The ATU members were clear at the press conference that they intend to continue to defend their rights for safe working conditions and safe transit for the people of Chicago. They expressed the dire need to fight against the CTA’s irresponsible and illegal attacks and to continue to build a mass movement of union and community members throughout Chicago.
At the press conference prior to the hearing, CTA workers spoke about the daily indignities of their hard working conditions including unfair and unsafe scheduling and inadequate break times – “[Often we] have to be out of the bus terminal two minutes after we’ve arrived. How can you pee when you’ve arrived [for] two minutes? You can’t; you have to get your passengers off the bus and then back on again,” said Slater at the conference.
Djuan Williamson, a part-time CTA bus driver, spoke about the incredibly stressful working conditions CTA bus drivers are subject to every day – “You have Uber, Lyft, bikes, red lights, speed cameras, you have the highest crime rate in the country. You have murderers, gangbangers, getting on the bus with you. The police officers, they have guns, we have nothing. So who’s afraid of who? The police are afraid that they might get killed. But yet they started me at minimum wage. Eight dollars and fifty cents an hour, at minimum wage. A Vietnam era veteran. I lost my business, I came here to work. Two and a half years ago, as part-timer. I’m still a part timer….”
Ed Hershey, a teacher at Lindblom Elementary and member of the Chicago Teachers Union also spoke of how he met drivers at Mr. Slater’s garage who complained of management intimidation after attending a joint union meeting he attended – “I’m not surprised by this at all. That they would attack somebody who wants to defend public services, who wants to draw the connections between our struggles. We teachers are in struggle right now, with Mayor Emanuel, and apparently they are attacking Erek for pointing that out to his coworkers. I’m outraged by this attack. All teachers unions should be outraged by this attack and we give our full support to Brother Erek.”
Lastly, workers also talked about CTA’s practice of sending private investigators, at taxpayer expense, to bus driver, rail operators and other union members’ homes to make sure their Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time off was justified. Workers are not paid for FMLA leave.
Charlie Peacock, ATU Local 308, 1st Vice President spoke out, “We are here standing in solidarity with Erek: “An attack on one is an attack on all!”