Crystal Jones is our November Patriot. Cleveland’s first female heavy equipment operator demanded free speech (and got it).

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Crystal Jones is the first female licensed heavy equipment operator ever employed by the City of Cleveland, operating various types of heavy machinery and has been in that position for over 17 years. She was born and raised in Cleveland Ohio and is a graduate of John F. Kennedy High School. Additionally, she is also only a few credits shy of a criminal justice degree she began studying for at Tri-C Eastern Campus. Ms. Jones recently settled a lawsuit that she filed in 2017 against the City of Cleveland forcing the City’s Administration to cease the suppression of her and her co-workers first amendment rights to free speech relative to working conditions on the job, misogyny, and disparate treatment.

Crystal is an advocate for women’s rights; mentors foster children, is herself the guardian of a mentally challenged adult, is a long-time real estate investor who provides employment opportunities for men and women with substance abuse issues, and also helps feed the homeless.

As a long tenured heavy equipment operator she has witnessed many environmental concerns which have provided the opportunity to advocate for better regulations and quality of life for everyone. Crystal exemplifies what it means to be a beacon of light in her sphere of influence and we greatly appreciate her efforts.

Crystal’s lawsuit against the City chronicled disreputable working conditions along with oppressive internal policies circulated by the City. The lawsuit alleged that for years, these policies suppressed her as well as her co-workers’ First Amendment rights to free speech.

Crystal said “It was fear that held me captive to its overwhelming energy but it is wisdom from The Creator that freed me from captivity.”

Ms. Jones referenced in her federal filing the numerous incidents of verbal abuse, misogyny, and disparate treatment she has endured in her nearly 20 years on the job. She says she spent many of those years suffering in silence under an abusive, oppressive supervisor. Crystal’s complaints, both written and verbal, against Assistant Superintendent Warren Thornton were ignored for years by Thornton’s supervisor, General Superintendent (or Mobile 1) Anthony Ludwig until the City finally demoted but refused to terminate Thornton despite overwhelming evidence of his cruelty.

The malevolent behavior of Thornton, everything from calling subordinates the n-word, to telling Crystal “I’m going to enjoy breaking you down”, coupled with the complicity of second tier supervision like Ludwig should be utterly condemned by the City Administration, but such is the culture in the City of Cleveland.

Receiving little to no assistance from the City Administration or her union with respect to Pop quote: “Crystal and others will be able to speak without censorship or retaliation about information of vital public concern…”

Thornton and Ludwig, Crystal showed exceptional courage when she ultimately filed in federal court. Crystal’s suit as previously referenced, which challenged the City of Cleveland’s policies

disallowing Waste Division employees the ability to speak to the media, also severely restricted their use of social media. Sandhya Gupta, an attorney with the Chandra Law Firm representing Ms. Jones commented “The settlement is a positive outcome for Crystal and for City employees previously under the constraint of the challenged policies. Under the terms of the agreement, the City is going to amend those policies. Crystal and others will be able to speak without censorship or retaliation about information of vital public concern, such as what Crystal encountered working at the City’s waste-transfer station.”

Not only did Crystal challenge the free speech issues and describe the disparate treatment, but she also documented instances involving open ceilings which exposed employees to cat, rat, and raccoon urine, feces, and blood in office spaces and other indoor common areas at Ridge Road. She also talked about the dumping and disposal of toxic and hazardous materials as well as animal carcasses at the Ridge Road Station which could expose employees to all manner of health issues from known carcinogens to infectious diseases to blood borne pathogens. Raccoons can of course, transmit rabies and both raccoons and rats can transmit leptospirosis, an infection that can lead to bleeding of the lungs as well as meningitis.

Crystal remarked, “We have made a mess on this planet and now are forgetting that it’s our young people who are left behind to clean up.” She’s absolutely correct in her assessment.

Crystal wonders how the EPA could clean up toxic, mercury-filled fluorescent bulbs at a warehouse in the 7200 block of Neville Avenue earlier this year, but dismisses the fact that Ridge Road has countless fluorescent bulbs discarded at the facility which routinely break allowing the mercury to become airborne and thus a respiratory hazard. How indeed! EPA and PERRP, organizations responsible for the policing of environmental hazards, have not been diligent enough in deterring the dumping infractions at the Ridge Road Transfer Station in Crystal’s view.

Being an activist, I remember well learning to overcome the often paralyzing fear associated with standing up to the status quo when your rights and the rights of others are being trampled. We thank you Crystal, for being an example to those who needed to see your courage so they could utilize it as a template to find their own.


Thanks to Kimberly F. Brown and the Brown Report for originally publishing much of this report.