Chicago, Illinois – In an unprecedented act of political repression, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s appointees at the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) have banned CTA workers from sharing literature related to the 2015 Mayoral race.
According to the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), which represents more than 10,000 CTA employees and has endorsed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for Mayor, CTA posted memos in bus garages and rail terminals barring employees from communications normally protected by the First Amendment. CTA’s General Counsel also penned letters warning that fines could be issued if off-duty workers handed out literature to their co-workers in non-work areas of CTA property.
On Tuesday, ATU filed a lawsuit in United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois alleging that CTA is violating the First Amendment rights of transit workers.
“We’ve seen this before in Chicago, when workers like us were told to stay quiet and stay obedient,” said ATU Local 308 President Ken Franklin. “Well Rahm is not the King of Chicago, and we will not obey. We’re not going to stand by and let him create one set of rules for him and his rich friends, and another set for the rest of Chicago.”;
“While Rahm Emanuel held a campaign press conference in a bus garage last week and shook hands with our workers, his pals at CTA headquarters threatened to punish those same workers if they even talked about the campaign!” said ATU Local 241 President Tommy Sams. “He’s essentially installed a free speech red light camera for every public workplace in the city.”;
ATU International President Larry Hanley said the entire 200,000 member International Union stands with Chicago’s public workforce. Hanley is demanding a national response. “I’ve seen brutal attacks on working people in the last few years, but this is a new level of repulsive behavior. Rahm makes Rudy Giuliani look reasonable!” Hanley said. “When the leader of the Democratic Party in one of America’s largest cities threatens public workers and suspends their First Amendment rights, it’s time for the national Democratic Party to step in. Today, I’m calling on the entire Democratic Party to repudiate Rahm Emanuel. No one should be let off the hook for stomping on the First Amendment, and no leader of the Democratic Party should attack workers’ basic human rights, and still be called a Democrat,”