Despite historic blizzard, bus drivers pack court for union militant

Members of Local 8751 defy blizzard to pack court.WW photo: Steve Kirschbaum

Members of Local 8751 defy blizzard to pack court.
WW photo: Steve Kirschbaum

Boston, Feb. 2 — A record-breaking snowstorm has shut down streets, schools and airline flights throughout the Northeast. With 34.1 inches of snow since Jan. 27, this is now Boston’s snowiest week since modern weather records began in 1891, according to the Weather Channel.

This did not stop 75 people from packing the courtroom to overflowing at Dorchester District Court today. It was another powerful show of support for the Boston School Bus Drivers Union and its founder Steve Kirschbaum.

Getting around in Boston is not easy today. But the militant school bus drivers, 95 percent of whom are Haitian, Cape Verdean and African American, turned out, along with community supporters. All wore bright yellow stickers supporting United Steelworkers Local 8751. Members of the Disabled People’s Liberation Front made the difficult trip through the snow via wheelchairs to support the union.

Forced by subpoena to appear were the bosses of the school bus company, Transdev (formerly Veolia), who sat glumly waiting to be called for the frame-up case they are responsible for.

However, the snow prevented jury selection from taking place today — leading the judge to postpone it to March 3. But before that happened, 21 witnesses for the defense were ordered to appear for the next court date. The prosecution is calling two witnesses.

The 21 witnesses were among over 100 people who were present at an impromptu indoor union rally last June 30. They will testify that the charges against Kirschbaum — trespass and a serious felony “assault with a dangerous weapon” (a table) — are 100 percent false. The nonexistent case is motivated by the desire of the Boston city establishment to break the fighting school bus drivers union — a desire that also drove the illegal firing of four union leaders in 2013.

The progressive, fightback record of this union was shown by the many community supporters at the trial and afterwards at an indoor courthouse rally. Longtime allies of Local 8751 — former City Councilmember Chuck Turner; Sandra Macintosh, of the Coalition for Equal Quality Education; and Lisa Owens, one of the founders of the youth activist group Free My People — were joined by new supporters such as Jackson. He is with a group of activists who shut down Boston’s I-93 in protest of racism a few weeks ago. His trial will be on Feb. 20 in Somerville District Court.

Martha Grevatt, a United Auto Workers supporter who traveled from Detroit with three youth activists to attend the trial, spoke to the rally about growing national support for the Boston School Bus Drivers Union. A recent resolution was passed by United Steelworkers Local 1299, representing workers at Great Lakes Steel.

This was on the heels of a resolution passed by the Alameda Central Labor Council and donations from the Massachusetts Nurses Association and Food and Commerical Workers Local 1549.

Veolia/Transdev and its Boston political backers hoped in July that they could derail the growing support for this community-based social union with the repressive power of the state. Since then, the union has not only continued to fight the attack on its members but also jumped into the national uprising against police brutality with both feet.

Local 8751 formally endorsed and donated $1,000 to Boston Black Lives Matter. The two groups collaborated on a January protest against Boston’s Mayor Martin Walsh. Today, both supporters and the union’s class enemies could not help but be impressed that — in the midst of a blizzard paralyzing much of the region — the union packed the court with rank-and-file members and political supporters. Local 8751 fights on.