A work stoppage to support a mechanic who found a noose is snarling school bus service in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS — A black mechanic for the company that provides school bus services for the St. Louis school district said he found a noose at his workplace, forcing at least 100 drivers to stop work in a show of support.

The work stoppage began Monday and continued Tuesday for St. Louis drivers employed by Missouri Central School Bus. Most after-school activities in St. Louis Public Schools were canceled both days. And on Tuesday morning, about 40 bus routes were exposed, forcing parents to make other plans.

“We, like you, are in the middle of this ugly dispute at Missouri Central,” said a statement from the school district.

Mechanic Amin Mitchell said he found a noose at his workplace last week. Mitchell told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he believed the noose was intended to send a racist message to intimidate him after an argument with a manager over Mitchell’s concerns that some bus brakes were inadequate.

Mitchell posted a video on social media of the noose, made from a thin rope and lying on the floor in the room where he works.

“That’s a message that says, ‘If you don’t stop doing what you’re doing, something bad will happen right away,’” Mitchell told the newspaper. He did not immediately return messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Missouri Central said in a statement that it will hire an independent third party to investigate claims by Mitchell and others of racism.

“At Missouri Central, it is our policy to provide and promote a work environment that is welcoming to all regardless of age, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation,” the statement said. “There is zero tolerance for any behavior that violates this policy.”

The state, city and county NAACP chapters on Tuesday called for a federal or state investigation.

“The noose is a symbol of hate and sends a clear message of racial terror and the possibility of violence,” said Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel Jr. in a text message.

The drivers are members of Laborers’ International Union of North America. Because their contracts don’t allow strikes, drivers told the Post-Dispatch, they called in sick with “personal issues.”