Chicago PD Made Bus Drivers Ferry Them to Protests. One Driver Is Suing His Bosses to Fight It.

Amid protests over the Minneapolis Police Department’s killing of George Floyd, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus driver Erek Slater, a 14-year veteran of the city’s transit system, is filing a federal lawsuit against his employer—for allegedly cracking down on a rank-and-file effort to resist driving Chicago police.

Days of rallies and sit-ins across the city have been accompanied by incident after incident of police violence: officers covering badges before attacking protestors, an apparently unprovoked assault on a Black woman in her car, and a baton attack on the president of the city’s Police Board.  Slater, who is also a shop steward and board member for Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 241, wrote on Facebook that many drivers don’t want to assist police by ferrying officers to those protests.

Some drivers, he wrote in a public Facebook post, were trying to discuss safety and ethical concerns about those assignments when management angrily broke up the meeting. He describes the alleged confrontation in a lengthy Facebook post:

I was confronted by management and police in the workers break area. The breakroom was cleared of workers, and CPD apparently called for backup. I went out to the parking lot to address my coworkers and ask them what they think we should do. As workers were discussing the matter, a CPD officer intervened to threaten me with arrest if I did not leave.

“CTA management shouted insults at me and threatened to fire me on the spot,” he wrote in the same post. “They said we couldn’t discuss if it was safe to drive CTA ‘police charters.’ They said we were promoting a wildcat strike…management continued to shout over us as they stated they were calling the police to forcibly disband the meeting.”

Chicago police have already been using city buses to transport officers—but union resistance to similar efforts is mounting. Local 241 is ATU’s second largest—Chicago’s bus system ranks third in the nation for ridership, and whatever actions it takes will set an important precedent.

“At least three coworkers from just my bus garage have told me that they refused to drive the police charters—there are likely many more who have similarly refused, overcoming possible threats of ‘behavioral violations’ and loss of pay,” Slater wrote in his Facebook post.

The union has won a past legal victory against the CTA for alleged crackdowns on political speech. A copy of the federal complaint against the agency is attached to Slater’s Facebook post; he plans to hold a press conference at Chicago’s Dirksen Federal Building on Monday. Mother Jones has contacted Slater for comment.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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