Pack the courtroom Oct. 6: Drop charges against Boston school bus drivers’ leader

Garry Murchison, Steve Kirschbaum, Andre Francois, Steve Gillis

Garry Murchison, Steve Kirschbaum, Andre Francois, Steve Gillis

The Boston School Bus Drivers Union fight against heartless union-buster Veolia is being waged on many fronts. It’s now a fight to get the frame-up felony charges on Grievance Chair Steve Kirschbaum dropped; to rehire the four unjustly fired leaders; and to win a just contract, which expired on June 30.

On the frame-up charges, members of United Steelworkers Union Local 8751 turned the courtroom in Dorchester District Court into a union hall on Sept. 15, packing it to overflow capacity, and then taking over the steps outside for a rally after the hearing.

The next hearing is Monday, Oct. 6. The combined forces of union members and community supporters who came out on Sept. 15 have vowed to make the next court date a repeat performance of solidarity and fightback.

Charles Clemons of Touch 106.1, the fighting radio station of Boston’s African American community, declared, “When we come back on Oct. 6, we’re going to have justice!”

Having just witnessed the hearing — in which the prosecution appeared unprepared and fumbled for facts to back up its assertions — Clemons called attention to the fact that the so-called case against Kirschbaum was unraveling. “They tried to bring these trumped-up charges with no evidence,” he told the rally.

The strength of the membership, with solid community support, is forcing some cracks in both the Boston establishment’s “case” and alliance against the union. And while the union membership stands solidly behind Kirschbaum in opposing the trumped-up charges — and in demanding the reinstatement of the four — they know the ultimate target is their union rights. “Veolia was brought in to destroy this union,” said Local 8751 negotiator Georgia Scott, also on the steps of the courthouse.

This is made all the more obvious by the day-in, day-out current struggle against Veolia’s speedups and reductions of workers’ hours — another front the workers are fighting on. Thousands of hours a week of “exception time” are being logged. What that means in plain language is that the company, along with Transdev, an Illinois-based corporation overseeing the four bus yards, is only pledging to pay the workers for sped-up, unrealistically determined bus routes. If the drivers want to get paid for their full shifts, they have to then submit additional time sheets with “exception time.”

This bottom-line approach is resulting in thousands of dollars not being included in drivers’ paychecks; hundreds of students being late for school; hundreds of students missing their breakfast programs; and hundreds of unjust disciplines against drivers carried out by Veolia and Transdev.

The words on the union’s placards “Safety for the Children, Justice for the Drivers” is no mere slogan. In fighting for their rights on the job, the school bus drivers are also fighting for safe, on-time transportation for students — and, by extension, access to equal, quality ­education.

For more information on the Oct. 6 hearing, visit the Facebook page of “Team Solidarity — the Voice of United School Bus Union Workers.”