Union votes for arbitration for Cleveland RTA driver fired over uppercut

CLEVELAND - The Cleveland RTA union voted in favor of arbitration for the bus driver who was fired after being caught on video punching a rider.

Video surfaced in October of 59-year-old RTA driver Artis Hughes uppercutting a 25-year-old woman who refused to pay, the police report said. The incident happened on Sept. 18 when he picked up a group of riders at the Van Aken transit station.

On Tuesday, ATU Local 268 President William H. Nix said that members of the union voted unanimously to file arbitration on behalf of Hughes, who also faced assault charges.

"It was wrong for someone to do me the way they did me, the way that RTA terminated me for doing my job when they were supposed to be behind me," Hughes said.

The police report said the rider boarded the bus and didn't pay the fare, so Hughes tried to close the doors and continue to the next stop. The woman, Shi'Dea Lane of Cleveland, then began swearing at the driver, then grabbed him by the throat and spit in his face while he was driving, the police report said.

"She started talking crazy to him he said girl pay your fare or get off the bus. She really got to flipping out really he told her to get off," one witness told police. "She hit him more than once (sic) and then spit on him. He did what he had to do."

Hughes was suspended and eventually fired for the exchange.

"There are certain actions by our employees that are so serious that the employee is subject to immediate discharge. One of those actions is a use of force against a member of the public," the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority said after Hughes was let go. "In the Artis Hughes situation, the customer was out of line and charges have been filed against her."

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