Media Center

Dec 31

ATU Local 1546 files lawsuit for CATS violation of free speech rights of workers

Union cites agency’s unlawful union-busting tactics by firing employees for
speaking out on workplace safety concerns amidst pandemic

Baton Rouge, LA – In an unprecedented act of repression, Capital Area Transit System (CATS) management has violated the First Amendment rights of its workers by firing them after speaking out on safety concerns during the pandemic and the unethical business practices of  CATS CEO William J. Deville.

Filed today by Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1546 in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, the lawsuit seeks injunctive relief to stop CATS from carrying out a scheme to cease recognizing Local 1546 as the collective bargaining representative of CATS employees as a result of its mass firing of the union leadership.

“This is flat out censorship and union-busting by CATS. They are violating our First Amendment rights in an attempt to silence Union officers by firing them for speaking about the dangerous and unsafe conditions at CATS during the pandemic,” says ATU International President John Costa. “CATS has been on a campaign to fire union supporters in order to undermine the Union, and ultimately bust the Union.”

The Union says CATS fired five of the six Union officers for an event that it had been aware of for approximately half a year earlier and only became a problem for CATS after the officers began speaking out about the problems at CATS.  Since then, CATS has proceeded to fire additional Union members as part of its scheme to bust the Union. 

More recently, on December 30, 2020, CATS sent employees a notice as part of its plan to deny that the Union now has majority support among CATS employees.

“This notice was another scheme by CATS to coerce, bully, and threaten the members of Local 1546,” says Local Trustee Anthony Garland. “They are threatening our members with termination if they speak out in support of the Union and against the attempt to bust the Union.”

In the lawsuit, the Union is asking that CATS reinstate the fired employees and cease and desist from further firings and discipline of employees for exercising their First Amendment rights.

“This is an unlawful abuse of power by CATS management,” Costa continued “We will continue to speak out about safety and health concerns during the pandemic and the illegal retaliation against workers to protect our livelihoods and ensure the safety of workers, riders, and our community.”