Media Center

Feb 29

First Amendment Victory for CARTA Workers

Transit agency violated its workers’ constitutional rights by prohibiting worker from appearing and testifying at CARTA’s monthly public board meeting

 Chattanooga, TN – In a big victory for Chattanooga Area Transit Authority (CARTA) workers, a federal court ruled that the transit agency violated the First Amendment rights of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1212-Chattanooga, TN members working for the agency, by refusing to allow workers to testify at CARTA’s monthly public board meeting.

CARTA prohibited bus operator and Local President Kathryn Smith from appearing at a CARTA monthly board meeting to testify about the agency’s safety problems, poor service, and mistreatment of, and possible discrimination against, workers by management.

“This is a big victory for CARTA transit workers and all workers’ free speech rights,” says Smith. “CARTA was attempting to squash on our First Amendment right to bring to the attention of the public and CARTA board members our concerns about safety and service, and mistreatment and disrespect of our members.”

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee concluded what was apparent at the outset, that “CARTA’s refusal to permit [Smith] to speak at its monthly meetings violated the First Amendment.”

“There is a disturbing trend occurring across our country in which transit agencies trample on the free speech rights of employees who expose safety problems and other issues,” says ATU International President John Costa. “It’s an unlawful abuse of power. We will continue to campaign against unsafe conditions and mistreatment of transit workers as long as it takes to protect our livelihoods and ensure the safety of our riders and the welfare of the communities we serve.”