Labor appeal for Boston school bus drivers’ union

The following June 11 letter was sent out to the labor movement and signed by Myles Calvey, business manager, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2222; Rich Rogers, executive secretary-treasurer, Greater Boston Labor Council; Dumond Lewis, president, United Steelworkers Local 8751; Steven A. Tolman, president, Massachusetts State AFL-CIO; Andrew Slip, staff rep., District 4 USW; and John E. Shinn, director, District 4 USW.  

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

We are writing to ask for your support and solidarity in a most critical battle against the Veolia Corporation’s union-busting war on Unied Steelworkers Local 8751. It is a vital fight to protect union rights and defend the fired leaders of Boston School Bus Union, USW 8751 — Vice President and Pension Administrator Steven Gillis; Recording Secretary and Charlestown Chief Steward Andre Francois; Steward and former three-term President Garry Murchison; and Grievance Chair and founding member Stevan Kirschbaum. We are organizing for a Day of Solidarity on Monday, June 30, at 6 p.m. at Veolia’s corporate offices, 35 Freeport Way, Dorchester, Mass. Labor and community must stand together as one to serve notice to Veolia that we will not allow union busting in Boston!

How you can help:

1.  Please join us in our campaign to drive union busting out of Boston.  Endorse and organize your members for “Solidarity Day,” June 30, 2014.  Please spread the word widely.

2.  Invite the four to your membership meeting to expose the facts of Veolia’s anti-unionism.

3. Write or call Veolia Transportation’s General Manager Alex Roman III demanding that he reinstate the fired leaders and honor the union contract: [email protected]; 617-780-4840.

Veolia, a French-based global conglomerate, has a trail of union busting and corporate ruthlessness around the world. Veolia businesses include transportation, energy, environmental, water and more.  In transportation alone, Veolia has waged anti-union campaigns against bus drivers from San Francisco (SEIU 1021 and ATU 1555) to Phoenix (ATU 1433); from Pensacola (ATU 1395) to Las Vegas (ATU 1637); and from Baltimore (UFCW 1994) to Denver (CWA 7777). Veolia’s standard tactics are to low-bid city management contracts, then force concessions and cutbacks in clear violation of the existing union contracts. When the workers and their unions resist, the bosses threaten, harass, discipline and fire the union leaders and activists.

Despite signing an agreement to honor all terms and conditions of the USW 8751 contract on June 18, 2013, since Veolia took over management of Boston School Bus transportation on July 1, 2013, they blatantly and systematically violated nearly every article regarding wages, benefits and working conditions. At the same time, they repudiated the established grievance and arbitration procedures. From July to June, the union has filed hundreds of individual and class action grievances. In August, the Steelworkers filed 18 unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board. On Oct. 7 the company attempted to force the drivers to fill out new hire applications. The members also knew that due to the federal government shutdown at the time, they had no redress available. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

On the morning of Oct. 8 the drivers reported to work and demanded a meeting with Veolia, whose top management as well as Boston Public School officials were on site at the bus yards, concerning the company’s total failure to honor the contract. They refused for hours; then at 11 a.m., the company locked the gates and evicted the drivers under threat of arrest for trespassing. The workers’ request for a meeting is protected concerning union activity, and the company’s lockout was a violation not only of the contract but of federal law. There never was a wildcat strike. This allegation was a cruel hoax perpetrated against the union by Veolia, with the aid of former Mayor Menino, his School Department and the Boston media. When Boston City Council called a hearing to investigate the events of Oct. 8, Veolia, the Menino administration, and  Boston Public School officials boycotted it. The City Council has vowed to continue the investigation. Veolia, in a clear attack on the organizational backbone of the union, singled out the four union leaders for firing. They have been out since the first week of November.

Meanwhile BPS has initiated a massive austerity cutback campaign that calls for kicking middle school students off the yellow school bus as well as reduction in union staff and services throughout the system, which will not only jeopardize equal quality education but eliminate union jobs!