Boston workers unite behind fired union leader

Andre Francois, left, and Steve Kirschbaum (with bullhorn) at Sept. 15 rally. Both were illegally fired by Veolia.Photo: Howard Rotman

Andre Francois, left, and Steve Kirschbaum (with bullhorn) at Sept. 15 rally. Both were illegally fired by Veolia.
Photo: Howard Rotman

A Dorchester, Mass., district courtroom was packed Sept. 15 with mainly school bus drivers and supporters in solidarity with Steve Kirschbaum, a leader and founder of United Steelworkers Local 8751, the Boston School Bus Drivers Union.

Kirschbaum has been falsely accused of four felony charges by the Boston police following a rally in late June demanding that Kirschbaum, along with other union leaders — Andre Francois, Garry Murchison and Steve Gillis — be reinstated. The four were fired last November following an illegal lockout of the workers Oct. 8 by the union-busting conglomerate Veolia.

This latest attack comes in the midst of contract negotiations between the local and Transdev, an Illinois-based company that currently oversees the four school bus yards. The drivers have made it clear that there will be no contract unless all four drivers are rehired.

Defense attorneys Barry P. Wilson and John Pavlos argued strongly at the pretrial hearing that the bogus charges against Kirschbaum should be dismissed because Veolia and the police are abusing the legal system to settle a labor dispute. Wilson stated that the police committed perjury when making the charges. Kirschbaum’s case is being sent to the National Labor Relations Board.

In response to the prosecutor’s refusal to drop the charges, Wilson and Pavlos requested the pretrial hearing continue, with the aim of providing more discovery evidence to dispute the charges. The date for the next pretrial hearing is Oct. 6.

Following the hearing, a boisterous rally took place on the courthouse steps involving more than 250 people. Chants of “Union, union, union!” were echoed by many speakers. Bus drivers Kirschbaum, Francois and Georgia Scott spoke, as well as City Councillor Charles Yancey; former Councillor Chuck Turner; radio personality Charles Clemons; Peoples Power Assembly organizer Larry Holmes; WW managing editor Monica Moorehead; and People with Disabilities activist Brian Shea; along with the two attorneys.