They Fired Me And 'Made' Me Into An Organizer ATU 241 Fired Union Steward And Executive Board Member Eric Slater discusses his struggle and lessons against bullying & his illegal termination by Chicago Transit Authority CTA.
They Fired Me And 'Made' Me Into An Organizer
ATU 241 Fired Union Steward And Executive Board Member Eric Slater discusses his struggle and lessons against bullying and his illegal termination by Chicago Transit Authority CTA.
Official results of the first round of elections for the leadership of my union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 241, were posted yesterday. In the first ballot, I was re-elected by my coworkers for the position of Executive Board representative for the North Park bus garage of the Chicago Transit Authority. For the next three years, I intend to continue to defend and organize our 600 working families. We are some of the most impressive and powerful workers. I look forward to continuing to help turn our union of 10,000 transit worker and retiree families towards the larger struggle of working people. That is where we will begin to win.
Run-off elections for the top two candidates for many other positions will occur later this month. Our current president has been voted out of office and we will have a new president and 1st vice president on April 1. Whoever is elected, they will need the solidarity of the working class to confront our employer and the city administration for the disrespectful and dangerous working conditions we face.
I would like to acknowledge the many coworkers who publicly encouraged workers at our bus garage to vote for me. I would also like to acknowledge my family and allies for supporting me and doing so much work during the campaign.
The program of action that I, and already three other candidates have co-signed included these action items:
-Continue and intensify the public contract campaign. More rank-and-file workers protected and encouraged to speak publicly. Fighting alliances with other unions and working class organizations. We can win good contracts, but we have to organize and fight for it alongside the working-class.
-Form organizing/mobilization and education/training departments of the local.
-Form public committees open to all members to lead: mass-action committee, contract/strike committee, retiree/laid off/fired worker committees, etc. Publicize regular meetings well in advance.
-Transportation stewards should be made into executive board members and additional elections should be held for more stewards and assistant stewards. A stewards council should be formed which meets monthly. All of us are already disciplined leaders – leaders of our family, in our communities and at our workplace – anyone of us can and should lead.
Public Letter of Appreciation to Those who Helped Win my Return to Work Order
(this public letter and hyperlinks can be found on Facebook here: http://tinyurl.com/zcnwmzu)
On October 6, at the International Convention of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) in Toronto, Canada, I was informed that our union had won a return-to-work order with back-pay ruling regarding my termination as a 10-year Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) public bus driver.
On February 11, 2016, I was fired for insubordination for doing the work of defending my coworkers and defending our contract. Because I am a shop steward and elected Executive Board member of our union of over 10,000 working families, this was an attack on our entire union and it's long history.
However, the appointed managers of the CTA may unjustly appeal the ruling, like they did our $20M grievance for breaking our contract and overworking part-time workers as they laid off over 1,000 of us and massively cut public transit service during the “doomsday” cuts of 2011. This is still in the courts even though the CTA knows they cannot win. They would rather pay their lawyers (from the city budget they claim is bankrupt) to stall in order to use this as leverage in contract negotiations that are ongoing (our contract ended December 31, 2015). These managers may also drag out negotiations for the "make whole" ruling among other dirty tricks. All these delay tactics harm our working class communities.
Let's keep the pressure on to return to work (with all back pay and benefits) our hundreds of unjustly fired transit workers. Let’s continue to fight for a massive expansion of public transportation (and other social needs) where thousands of unemployed workers are hired for front-line jobs at union-scale pay and benefits.
The broader struggle is far from over, but I want to take this time to publicly thank some of the many organizations and hundreds of people who directly contributed to this partial victory. I hope workers in struggle will communicate with the organizations, read the websites, look at the pictures and watch some of the videos below. We have a lot to learn from each other.
I would like to thank… (in no particular order)
My partner, family members and friends who supported us in so many ways.
The unionists and coworkers who bravely spoke to the press on CTA property in uniform on the day I was illegally fired. (video: http://tinyurl.com/hk7rjkv). I would also like to thank the 2nd Vice President of ATU 241 and the VP of ATU 308 (CTA rail workers) for speaking out at that press conference.
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) (http://www.ctunet.com), The Fight for 15 (and a union) (http://fightfor15.org) along with over 100 mostly immigrant workers who demonstrated in front of our bus garage as part of the April 1 Day of Action (pictures, video and links: http://tinyurl.com/zl7ysnp).
Our 1st, 2nd and 3rd Vice Presidents as well as my fellow steward at North Park CTA bus garage for defending me at the discipline hearings. I would like to thank our 1st VP and my fellow steward at North Park garage as well as many other coworker volunteers for trying to hold back the attacks against our working conditions while management repeatedly called the police to have me removed from our bus garage (picture: http://tinyurl.com/jkbl2uk). There are only two “part-time” stewards at our garage of over 600 working families – it’s an impossible situation that harms workers, our families and the riding public.
My coworkers at North Park bus garage and the other nine CTA and PACE suburban bus garages. Thank you for all the phone calls and petitions. Thank you for coming to and leading all the organizing/action meetings. Thank you for your tactical and strategic thinking and advice. Thank you for being the eyes and ears of the union while management kept us off property.
Our ATU International President and his staff for posting a link to one of our press statements on our international website (http://tinyurl.com/hxwkqrj).
The dozens of official statements and resolutions of support from all over the world and hundreds of written statements of support from individual unionists and worker leaders. The Confederation of Trade Unions, Seoul Regional Council, and The Korean Federation of Public Services and Transportation Workers Unions for their statement and pictures of support (http://tinyurl.com/hlvyp3p). The International Transit Workers Conference Against Privatization in Brazil which voted for a resolution supporting the case (http://tinyurl.com/zyl5734, video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU9NXdy5WmE). The International Network for Solidarity and Struggle (http://laboursolidarityandstruggle.org/site_english/) and the International Workers League (http://litci.org/en/) for their organization of international support. The Partisan Defense Committee who published and distributed a call for solidarity (http://tinyurl.com/hqybxnd) and asked their contacts to make a principled, non-sectarian stand on this case. Facts for Working People who also published a letter of support (http://tinyurl.com/z6g6fak).
Black Youth Project 100 (http://byp100.org/) and Black Lives Matter for speaking publicly in support (video: http://tinyurl.com/zdk45qd) and joining our organizing meetings. Public transit passenger advocacy groups and IMPROVE (http://tinyurl.com/j6pmmwt) and other para-transit justice fighters who joined our public actions and spoke out.
The many public transit passengers who called, emailed and exhorted the CTA to reverse their attacks. [see previous posts]
The Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) (http://www.coreteachers.org) for drafting and passing a resolution in support (http://tinyurl.com/jrlfg9g), creating an online petition (http://tinyurl.com/jjd35qo) and speaking out at each of our press conferences. I would also like to thank the many individual coworkers and activists that donated their time and money to writing press releases as well as designing, printing and distributing fliers.
The executive board members of ATU 241 for supporting several of our motions to attempt to mobilize our unions. I would also like to thank our 3rd Vice President and all the maintenance workers of CTA and PACE suburban and their leaders for supporting us during several critical membership votes.
The dozens of transit workers from around North America at the Labor Notes conference, who passed the hat and donated over $700 to help our family make it through this difficult period (http://tinyurl.com/hhk4rmg, twitter: http://tinyurl.com/jqbjbkh).
The volunteer social-justice lawyers who donated a considerable amount of their time and expertise. I would also like to thank the union lawyers who represented the union during arbitration and filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge.
The Transport Workers Solidarity Committee, (https://transportworkers.org/) for their public reports. Work Week Radio who published a radio interview (http://tinyurl.com/hjwzyly). United Public Workers for Action (http://www.upwa.info/) and the Labor Video Project
(http://www.laborvideo.org) for videos (http://tinyurl.com/h77satr) and reports on this struggle. I would also like to thank Labor Beat video [http://www.laborbeat.org/] for editing, producing and distributing factual pro-worker, pro-union videos about this and related struggles that have gone around the world.