Rank-and-file solidarity is the key
LESSONS OF BOSTON, PART 3
Below is the third and final part of a phone discussion between leaders of the Boston School Bus Drivers Union, United Steelworkers Local 8751, and members of Workers World Party analyzing how the union was able to win a great victory over the transnational company Veolia/Transdev.
‘Boston, Cuba and
– Monica Moorehead
WWP 2016 Presidential Candidate and member of the Secretariat
The duty of every revolutionary party is not only to support those on the front lines against corporate greed and union busting by those promoting racism and inequality, but to help get the word out, to help elevate a union like 8751 with the rest of the union movement that’s so much on the defensive in the struggle against austerity. In terms of the role that Veolia is playing in all of this, the struggle of the union is one example of the struggle against austerity worldwide, whether it’s in Flint, Detroit, everywhere in this country and around the world, or in Greece, Africa, the Caribbean. We know the struggle against capitalism knows no borders.
I want to raise Cuba especially — a country with little to no resources — that was still able to defeat the U.S., the most powerful imperialist country in the world, because Cuba had revolutionary leadership — which USW Local 8751 most certainly has. What the Cuban Revolution has shown us is that no matter how poor you may be in terms of economic development, if you have the revolutionary will, you can take whatever resources you have, whatever little material resources you may have, and prioritize those to meet the needs of the population.
That’s what the Cuban Revolution is all about, and that’s what Workers World Party did in our own small way in this struggle. We understood the importance of the 8751 struggle against Veolia had ramifications not just for this particular union, but for the whole labor movement, whether the workers were organized or unorganized. We tried to pull together our resources, whether human or material, to show our solidarity with this tremendous struggle over the last few years and throughout the decades that this union has been in existence. We were inspired by revolutions like in Cuba, which is like a rank-and-file country where people are so inspired and part of the revolutionary process.
‘The people are still
–Claude (Toutou) St. Germain
Recording Secretary, USW 8751,
and representative of Fanmi Lavalas
Finally we got the Four back, but the struggle is not over. We still have a long fight with this monster company. But today I would say we are in a very good position with this company.
The struggle we are in today seems no different than what the people of Haiti are in right now. We really need to carry the same spirit we give the struggle in Boston, in Local 8751, to the people in Haiti now, to hold the fight, and win that battle.
I remember 1990 when we had our first elected president in Haiti. After the seven months he had in office, there was a coup d’etat by the Army, by the capitalists of the U.S. All the Haitian nation stood up against that coup d’etat, against everybody involved in that coup — the United States, France, Canada. The struggle is still on; the people in Haiti have kept fighting. The political party Fanmi Lavalas was in the fight to have the masses get involved in politics and social things as well.
In Haiti right now, the people are still in the streets. The people are still resisting capitalism, they still resist the collaborators of capitalism, they still resist. They don’t want to give up the fight. They don’t want to give up the right to have a good election. They don’t want to give up the right to have food. They don’t want to give up the right to an education. They don’t want to give up the right to good health. They don’t want to give up the right to be free in their country and be part of their country. The bourgeoisie of Haiti, the oligarchy, don’t want the masses to get involved in the political area of this country. That’s still a big struggle, not only to get the power, but also to have freedom for the masses to get involved in the real life of the country. Right now, they are still in the streets, demanding that the elections be fair, honest, democratic. If they aren’t, the people will continue in the streets to make things be right.
The victory we had in Boston should be the victory of everyone, not only for those of us bus drivers in Boston. As a local, we seem like we are small, but we are not small, because we stood up in every fight, everywhere, for years. We’re traveling everywhere. If there was some kind of struggle, we were there to fight that.
I believe that when we say, “An injury to one is an injury to all,” that’s a true thing. Because we’ve been standing with everybody. That’s why when we are fighting that fight against Veolia, we see so many people with us.
The people everywhere should stand with the people in Haiti to make a victory for the whole world. Not only for the people in Haiti, but for the whole world to see exactly how we can make things happen everywhere.
I think people power is the freedom for people to be together and to claim and to fight for the rights they need to have. I think that’s going to remain our major battle in this struggle here. The right to form a union, the right to be together, the right to have a demonstration in the streets. That should be part of the struggle to get our freedom.
Workers World Party
I so appreciate the precious word of solidarity. Because solidarity and unity — building the bridges, tearing down the walls of oppression and racism — are the main factor that goes with class-consciousness and militancy.
How important it was that Team Solidarity swept the elections! Yes, it was years and years of hard work, day in and day out in the ranks, meetings at all the yards, the dozens of solidarity marches with the help of the Party. And for years and years the Boston mayors and bourgeoisie also red-baited our leaders and those who associated with them. But compared to years ago, the red-baiting, the anti-communist attacks didn’t play; they didn’t work. So the feeling of communists working with this splendid union is a classic example of our future.
The ruling class right now is in a crisis, $18 trillion of debt and heading into another recession deeper than 2007. Listen to their debates: They argue, they insult each other. I’ve never seen a period like this, and I’ve been in the movement 65 years. That’s one reason, not the main, why the drivers got such a wonderful contract — the internal confusion, including in Transdev.
And why was it in this period of deep austerity, unemployment and givebacks in labor contracts that USW 8751 got a good contract? The workers were able to make the company fear that if they didn’t get a good contract, they were ready to strike. The school bus drivers had it printed on their T-shirts: a coiled cobra with the slogan “Will strike if provoked.” They were so well-organized and ready that Transdev thought they’d better settle.
Now we go forward. It’s social unionism, it’s class struggle, it’s unity and solidarity in the working class. Now we’ll start to move while the ruling class is in disarray. Hope, unity, solidarity, sensitivity to the national question and self-determination!
On to socialism!
- Part 1: Lessons of the Boston School Bus Drivers’ victory
- Part 2: Unions must fight for oppressed communities