Boston school bus drivers versus capital, low wages

On Nov. 24, the Boston school bus drivers will gather at a courthouse to show support for grievance chair and union founder Steve Kirschbaum.

Kirschbaum will be on trial facing outrageous trumped-up charges — including felonious assault with a dangerous weapon — that are obviously being used by employer Veolia Corp. to try to bust the union.

Already, two of the bogus charges have been thrown out by the judge, as were two attempts by Veolia to bar Kirschbaum from the bus yards.

The prosecution has no case. Dozens of witnesses can attest to the fact that the alleged violations are false.

Since October 2013, Veolia’s union- busting tactics have been fought tooth and nail by the 900-strong, mostly Haitian workforce. In desperation, the company lashed out in early July with a series of patently ridiculous charges.

Why would a multibillion-dollar, seemingly all-powerful company be compelled to take such measures?

The executives of Veolia can’t help themselves. Their actions are dictated by the fierce competition amongst other capitalists like themselves in conditions of capitalist overproduction.

The recent gyrations of the stock market came as the International Monetary Fund lowered its estimate for world economic growth in 2014. The head of the IMF called the world economy “weak” and “brittle” — and said that Europe is facing a third recession. (Wall Street Journal, Oct. 7)

Now that capitalist production is stalled, the capital behind Veolia is driven to seek profit from contracts that extract tens of millions of dollars from city budgets.

Veolia’s contract with the city of Boston to run the school bus system allows it to get fifty cents on the dollar for money it “saves” by reducing the cost of providing the service.

Therefore the company is determined to slash health care, wages and other costs of the school bus drivers, and, by firing its leaders, hamper the union’s ability to fight these cuts.

Boston’s ex-mayor Thomas Menino was only too happy to assist Veolia in busting Steelworkers Local 8751, as he represented forces in the city determined to get rid of a union that consistently fought for the people.

But the workers are up against more than entrenched racist forces in Boston. They’re up against the vast amounts of capital behind Veolia that is seeking profit during a worldwide economic slowdown.

Of course, this is true of most workers, from fast-food employees to pensioners in Detroit (where water services are about to be taken over by Veolia). Veolia’s anti-union tactics and its reliance on millions in incentive payments and corruption represent its particular approach.

Local 8751’s rank and file have consistently turned out in the hundreds for rallies, yard meetings and pack-the-court dates. When they come out to defend Kirschbaum on Nov. 24, they know that, above all, they are coming out to defend their union against the ravages of low-wage capitalism — a fight that puts them in solidarity with allies all over the globe.