The Veolia Corporation’s campaign to break the Boston School Bus Drivers Union and rip up their contract is part of a broader austerity attack that targets the unions, public education and Boston’s African-American, Latino/a and immigrant communities.
Workers World supports this all-important fight against union busting and austerity cutbacks. The mostly Haitian, Cape Verdean and African-American rank-and-file school bus drivers have shown exemplary fighting spirit in going up against the global union-busting Veolia.
As this fight grows to include greater sectors of Boston’s communities, labor movement and progressive groups, the cynical anti-people attack can be turned around — and serve as a victory that can start to turn back the tide against the austerity being imposed from coast to coast on working people.
Last October, when Veolia locked out the union and illegally fired four of its leaders, its union-busting intentions were clear.
Since then, Boston Public Schools has also announced $107 million in public education cuts. This would not only eliminate hundreds of drivers’ jobs, but also kick 4,500 students off the school buses and onto the city’s already-overcrowded subway system, close schools, and lay off 250 teachers and classroom aides.
The dismantling of school busing would effectively return Boston to the racist era of segregated, separate-but-unequal public education.
The union’s citywide demonstration, Solidarity Day III, set for June 30, will oppose both the union-busting campaign and the school cutbacks. That date marks the expiration of the contract as well as the deadline for the Boston Public Schools’ austerity budget.
The stakes in this struggle are high — as are the benefits of beating back this austerity attack. Local 8751 is a fighting union that shows no sign of backing down. Its membership has impressively and consistently turned out in the hundreds for militant demonstrations, meetings and job actions. Solidarity Day I in November and Solidarity Day II in February were both attended by hundreds of drivers.
On numerous occasions masses of rank-and-file drivers — women and men — have gathered at the Veolia headquarters to stand outside a union grievance meeting and make their strength known to the company officials as they entered. This is not unusual for this local, whose workers have yard rallies every few days.
The determination of the union to keep fighting and not give in has won it a growing coalition of allies. The local’s decades-long history of standing with the community in the fight to defend equal quality education has won them widespread support. The Black Educators Alliance of Massachusetts, Coalition for Equal Education, and veteran activists Mel King and Chuck Turner are just a few of the broad coalition of community supporters.
The Massachusetts AFL-CIO and growing sections of the labor movement support the call for Solidarity Day III. A recent organizing meeting for Solidarity Day III included City Councilperson Charles Yancey; Touch 106 radio’s Charles Clemons; Jewish Voices for Peace, whose members oppose Veolia’s support for apartheid settlements in Palestine; a member of the Boston Teachers Union; the Coalition for Equal Quality Education; and others.
Mobilizing these forces and building independent classwide and community solidarity are essential for a successful struggle to drive union-busters out of Boston. The power of Solidarity Day III can strengthen the bargaining position of Local 8751 in the fight to get a decent contract and restore the four fired leaders. Organized labor together with the oppressed community will serve notice to Veolia, the Boston School Department and Mayor Martin J. Walsh that union busting will not be tolerated in Boston. This solidarity in action will live the motto of the labor movement that “An injury to one is an injury to all.”
All out for Solidarity Day III on June 30 in Boston!