The struggle of the fired Boston school bus drivers has now been going on for two years. That is a long time for four union leaders to be out of work. It is a long time for the union, Steelworkers Local 8751, to sustain its militant campaign to get the four rehired.
A campaign like this demands hours and hours of hard work — making signs, running errands, phone banking, sitting in meetings and handing out thousands of leaflets every time there is a rally. And there have been plenty of rallies since the union-busting Veolia company concocted its fabricated story that union President Andre Francois, Vice President Steve Kirschbaum, Financial Secretary Steve Gillis and Grievance Chair Garry Murchison led an illegal wildcat strike and left schoolchildren stranded on Oct. 8, 2013.
Veolia, which was hired by the city of Boston to break this 40-year-old class-conscious union, still refuses to admit the truth: the company subjected the union drivers to an illegal lockout when the workers demanded a meeting over legitimate grievances.
But, 22 months later, the membership of Local 8751 also shows no signs of backing down. These drivers are 98 percent workers of color — Haitian, Cape Verdean, Latino/a and African-American — and will do whatever it takes to “finish the job” of getting their leaders back to work and wresting a decent contract from one of the worst union busters on the planet.
The drivers’ union has made it to round three with Veolia. Local 8751 won the first round against Veolia when a working-class jury took a mere 10 minutes to find Kirschbaum not guilty of trumped-up felony assault charges that Veolia fabricated against the union’s founder. Round two came when the Team Solidarity slate, led by the fired drivers, routed the cowardly, corrupt, pro-company union leadership. The Team won every single position by margins of three-to-one and higher.
To win round three, Team Solidarity is mapping out a strategy to build for a mass labor/community “Solidarity Day” rally in Boston.
Speaking to a Team Solidarity meeting Aug. 9, Kirschbaum outlined the current state of the struggle in the context of the local’s 40-year history — which began when drivers faced the bricks and rocks of hard-core bigots determined to keep Boston public schools segregated: “Local 8751 has a proud history of fighting for our rights. The exemplary wages, benefits and union rights that we are now defending are the result of major strikes and battles of years past against union-busting companies and their servants in the school department and the city.
“We now face our most serious challenges. We and our rank and file have demonstrated remarkable stamina and determination to win. We have successfully stopped every ambush by the company, BPS, the city and the cops. It is now up to the rank and file, organized under the leadership of Team Solidarity, to finish the job.
“The bus company is by far the worst and greediest of our capitalist bosses. They represent the very essence of the parasitic 1 percenters! We have a backlog of hundreds of grievances and dozens of charges at the National Labor Relations Board regarding their illegal violations of our contract and rights. They have escalated unjust discipline, suspensions and firings. They refused to pay out life insurance to the families of our dearly departed. Since day one they have sought to tear up our contract and take away over 40 years of contract progress. In an unprecedented action they fired four top union leaders and even tried unsuccessfully to put me in jail.
“Add to this a school department and city who are hell-bent to cut the most basic education needs and rights of the communities we serve, closing schools and attempting to throw the middle school students off our buses.
“It is time that we teach these union busters the same lesson we have taught bus companies, school superintendents and yes, even mayors, in our past glory days. The lesson is clear and simple. If you try to bust our union, our union will bust you! Most importantly, we must strain every effort to build for the next Solidarity Day!”
Now is the time! Help the drivers win round three! Come to Boston for Solidarity Day!
If you cannot come to Boston, have an anti-Veolia demonstration where you live. Veolia aids Israeli apartheid, helps frackers and nuclear polluters cover up their mess, privatizes and destroys public water and transit services, and more. You will have no trouble finding allies to help the drivers beat Veolia.
Help sustain this heroic union with a solidarity contribution. To help the drivers win round three, visit Team Solidarity on Facebook or go to www.bostonschoolbus5.org.