CATS bus driver who fought for safety changes is now trying to get her job back

CHARLOTTE — A Charlotte Area Transit System bus driver who has fought for safety changes for operators and riders is now fighting to get her job back.

Gia Lockhart said she’s worked for nine years as a CATS bus operator. That ended in July, which is when she said she was fired.

She told Channel 9′s Hunter Sáenz she’s now in the grievance process and would love to have her job back, but she believes this is all an effort to silence her.

Lockhart has driven people home, to appointments, the grocery store and more for nearly a decade -- all behind the wheel of a CATS bus.

“It’s been a great job,” she said.

But Lockhart said she was fired in July after an alleged safety violation. She couldn’t go into detail but she showed Sáenz her clean record before the incident. She believes she’s being fired for other reasons.

“I feel like I’ve been treated unfairly,” Lockhart said.

She’s been known to have raised her voice for years fighting for bus safety every time something bad happens onboard. It started when her colleague, Ethan Rivera, was shot and killed while driving his bus in Uptown last year.

“It makes me feel very, very sickened that the city that I look at, the city where I work, the city that I move, has turned its back on me,” Lockhart said.

She’s not alone in feeling that way. Veronica Wallace was fired in July, too.

“Living in a state of stress,” she said.

Wallace is a union official and admits she broke policy and let her bus roll away. She thought she’d be given a second chance with her clean record, but she wasn’t.

“I think they just wanted to get rid of these guys and let us do our jobs,” she told Sáenz.

Lockhart is hopeful things will be resolved, but she feels targeted.

“When you’re viewed as that mouth, they’re going to definitely stick it to you,” she said. “And right now, I feel it’s been stuck to me.”

Bus operators are not employed by CATS so the agency didn’t have a comment on this story. Sáenz reached out to Transit Management of Charlotte, the employer of these bus drivers, but never got a call back after getting kicked off property while trying to get answers.

(WATCH BELOW: Seven elected leaders call for CATS governance changes)

Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz, wsoctv.com

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.