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May 5

MDOT and MTA Violating Free Speech Rights of Workers

In an unprecedented act of repression, Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) officials have violated the First Amendment Rights of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1300 leadership in Baltimore, MD.

According to the union, which represents more than 2,500 MTA employees, MDOT and MTA officials have unlawfully banned ATU Local 1300 President David McClure from MTA buildings. McClure has been forcefully removed from numerous employee discipline hearings at MTA properties.

On Monday, ATU filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland Northern Division alleging that MDOT Deputy Secretary James Ports and other MDOT and MTA officials are violating the First Amendment rights of transit workers. The lawsuit states “the ban is pre-textual and in reprisal for the public campaign of McClure and Local 1300 to expose grave safety violations by MTA and MDOT.”  

“This is flat out censorship by these agencies. They are violating our First Amendment rights in an attempt to silence McClure and all transit workers for informing the riders about the dangerous and life threatening conditions on the system,” says the Local. “They are illegally preventing McClure from defending the rights of our members in a retaliatory attempt to humiliate and embarrass him and the entire union.”

Last June the union exposed a serious rat problem plaguing the MTA subway system. Turns out that was just the tip of the iceberg of dangerous safety hazards on MTA subways. The Local launched a public campaign revealing five critical safety problems – track gaps, fire hazards, ventilation system problems, electrical hazards and emergency exit problems.

In the past few years, ATU has secured a temporary restraining order against the Chicago Transit Authority protecting workers’ rights to distribute flyers in CTA breakrooms in support of a mayoral candidate challenging the incumbent. In addition, a federal court in Grand Rapids, MI, granted two permanent injunctions against the transit agency there to stop it from prohibiting or interfering with the free speech rights of its workers. 

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