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Streets And Sanitation Supervisor Under Investigation After Racist Text Message To Garbage Truck Driver

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A city employee says her heart sank when her supervisor texted a message with the N-word, while on the job. Only on CBS 2, that text is now the subject of an investigation, and the recipient of the message shared her story with CBS 2's Tim McNicholas.

At the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation yard at 34th Street and Lawndale Avenue, garbage truck driver Heidi McGee's texts with her supervisors are mostly mundane.

But she said, last Thursday, she told a supervisor she was taking her break, and got a reply that was far from ordinary: "GTFO U don't like it here!!!" a line of laughter, and then "IRON MIKE aint afraid to stand up to these LOWLIFE N******!"

"It's degrading to us as people, as a person," McGee said. "The word is just, especially when it comes from someone that's not of color, means hate. It's just ugly. And then to use the word that was before it, to add it to that, makes it even worse. Low-life and then that word."

She said the text came from her refuse collection coordinator, who she has to periodically check in with via text during the day.

McGee said the supervisor, a White man, approached her after sending it and apologized, saying someone else had sent him the message and he didn't mean to forward it to her.

"But if it was sent to him, he's sending it to other people, because obviously I received it," McGee said.

The supervisor told her the message was about the words of a celebrity.

"'Oh Heidi, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to send that text you. I'm showing you what happened, what's going on. It was Iron Mike.' I said Iron Mike? Who is that? Who are you talking about? I said Mike Ditka? And he said, 'Yeah, Mike Ditka from the Bears,'" McGee said.

She thought that was something she would have heard on the news.

She called her husband who explained that Ditka had recently suggested NFL anthem protesters should leave the country, but the former Bears tight end and head coach didn't use a racial slur.

McGee still hasn't gotten a clear explanation for the text.

"For someone to pass that along amongst each other, it's just not a good thing for them to be doing, and that's the way they think about people," McGee said.

"It's a word that I won't let have power over me," said her husband, Martell, also a Streets and Sanitation worker at the same facility.

He called CBS 2 after talking to his wife, and said her supervisor shouldn't be in a position overseeing people he feels that way about.

Heidi McGee said she agrees with that, but she doesn't want her supervisor to get fired, because he has a family.

CBS 2 called the supervisor, and tried to ask why he sent it, but he said he has no comment.

We also checked to see if anyone at 34th and Lawndale has an explanation, but were told to wait outside as a worker said he'd call his superiors. No one ever came out to talk.

Both Martell and Heidi said, prior to this, they never heard any racist comments from the supervisor, but now they're left with a plethora of questions.

"The words is being sent from person to person to person, and I think that's how they feel about it. At that moment, I don't know if ... that's how they feel about the football players. I don't know how they feel about us," Heidi said.

She's now in touch with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Streets and Sanitation officials said human resources is investigating, and McGee said she met this week with the department's commissioner.

"I just want a nice, working atmosphere at work," she said.

McGee said she's seen the man who sent the text around work, but they haven't spoken since mid September.

For now, the commissioner told her to check in with a different supervisor.

The city is still investigating, which is why we chose not to name that supervisor.

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