On July 7, 2020 Erek Slater was officially fired by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) for leading discussions with his coworkers regarding the use of public transit buses shuttling police to protests against the murder of George Floyd. Erek read the official statement of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) to CTA Bus Operators:
”Furthermore, as our members – bus drivers – have the right to refuse work they consider dangerous or unsafe during the pandemic, so too Minneapolis bus drivers – our members – have the right to refuse the dangerous duty of transporting police to protests and arrested demonstrators away from these communities where many of these drivers live. This is a misuse of public transit.” (Full statement here.)
Management’s official documents (see below) claim that Erek led “fellow employees into a wildcat strike.” The CTA deemed this “inappropriate behavior” and fired him as a bus operator of 14 years. The manager who gave the order to fire him was promoted to a higher-paying position less than a week later.
Even after getting fired, Erek is still his coworkers’ elected shop steward. That means he is required to be on CTA property to listen to and help collectively organize coworkers’ concerns, give factual information, and directly defend and assist coworkers. On July 14, Erek came ready to do that work as he has done for over six years. Management approached him, asking him to go into a private room with them. Erek told them everything could be said in front of his coworkers in their breakroom. Shortly thereafter, police ordered Erek to leave and followed him out the door.
ATU Local 241 drafted a letter later that day (see below) stating, “the local believes the CTAs actions in discharging you were without just cause and we will use every effort to obtain your reinstatement with appropriate relief.” However, the CTA expects us to file a paper grievance and be quiet. The CTA still refuses to allow workers’ elected representative to be on property with them. This has also put Erek’s family in a difficult situation without income or health insurance even though many people are helping (see below). Now we have to put more pressure on the CTA and the city of Chicago by demanding that Erek be reinstated!
The city administration and the state is here making it clear where it stands in relation to the protests ignited by state violence against Black people: they are afraid of and will not tolerate transit workers holding organized discussions. The administration is also making clear that it will deny workers’ rights to use their union to address the workplace dangers posed by the covid-19 pandemic. Workers need the democratic space to discuss and debate the best policies for health and safety for all necessary work during this pandemic. We must also defend workers’ rights to speak out and organize against state violence. This is what this campaign is about – join us!
How you can help:
- Share this message. Cut and paste it to emails, social media, etc.
- Sign and share the petition demanding the dropping of all charges. Over 1200 signatures so far.
- ‘Like’ and share the page: International Campaign to Reinstate Chicago Bus Driver Erek Slater
- Ask your union/organization to pass resolutions and/or send letters to the people in power who can bring Erek back to work. (See template and addresses below.)
- Help Erek’s family with essentials and legal fees (see links below), etc. If you can, donate to the GoFundMe appeal here. We are also accepting donations of food/groceries, pull-ups (size 7), baby-wipes and children’s hand-me-down clothing and shoes, etc. (7T for girl and 4T for twin boys). Please send private messages for in-kind donations to this email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Send emails to people in power who can bring Erek back to work:
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot: email@example.com
CTA Board Chairman Terry Peterson: firstname.lastname@example.org
CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr.: email@example.com
(please cc firstname.lastname@example.org)
“[We/I are/am] writing you to request that Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus operator Erek Slater be immediately returned to his job of 14 years. Erek and other workers are being improperly targeted for using their constitutionally protected rights to freedom of speech and legal rights to organize. CTA workers were stopped – and are still being stopped – by CTA management and Chicago Police from holding conversations regarding the use of police shuttles during the protests against the police murders of Black people. This is wrong and must stop now. Drop all charges against him and return Erek to work now!”
Letters / Statements of support can also be sent to the Amalgamated Transit Union: (please cc email@example.com) ATU International President John Costa, Officers and General Executive Board: Officeofthepresident@atu.org, firstname.lastname@example.org
Links to more information:
Here are links to statements of support from all over the world: Milwaukee, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Los Angeles (2),Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Zambia, Italy, Italy, Italy, Italy (Grazie mille!!),Portugal, Great Britain, Japan, France and an International Labor Network of 88 labor and peoples organizations…
Recent Interviews: Address to British Unionists, Transit Workers and the Coronavirus, Labor Express Radio interview (twice), Work Week Radio and Radio Pacifica interview
News Articles: Chicago Tribune, Jacobin Magazine, Brazilian Labor Federation Newscast, Streets Blog Chicago, Mother Jones, Workers Voice, Speak Out Now, Socialist Resurgence
Public Speak-outs and press conferences: June 8, 2020:written speech, audio, video, Public Discussion about George Floyd Murder with NYC Transit Workers, Robert Cuffy and others, Press Conference in CTA HQ when first fired four years ago and thank you letter when we won, Public Discussion with Dockworkers about Police and Unions, Nurses and Transit Workers Speak out about Coronavirus
Earlier update (over 800 shares), Update of Legal Arguments to Federal Court, Future public updates will be posted here: International Campaign to Reinstate Chicago Bus Driver Erek Slater.