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Teamster Local #25 puts brakes on bosses' scab plan

By Stevan Kirschbaum

Steel Workers Local 8751


It was early morning on Sept. 7, the first day of a strike by 45 Teamsters school-bus drivers for Brookline and Newton, affluent Boston suburbs. The drivers were fighting for better wages and family health care.

According to the Teamsters' statement "A 6-billion dollar company, Laidlaw employs 85,000 employees in over 1,300 locations in U.S. and Canada and is one of the largest private school-bus transportation companies in the nation. In the most recent figures available, Laidlaw reported a 22-percent increase in revenue with a 30-percent increase in stock dividends for shareholders.

"In a dismal comparison, the average Laidlaw bus drivers' take home pay is $250 per week. Laidlaw's current offer for health care coverage would cost the employees 50 percent of their take home pay."

Laidlaw had scavenged for regional management hacks to scab on the strikers. Extra details of Boston Police were also called in. Laidlaw acted as though they believed that they could easily defeat this small local union.

However the militant determined union action of the drivers laid down the law to Laidlaw. The multinational drivers, the majority Haitian and African American, maintained a strong picket line.

The "Teamsters Local 25 Strike Force," which included squads of solidarity picketers in bright blue and yellow T-shirts, joined the strikers. The "Force" was backed up by a massive 18-wheel Teamsters Mobile HQ tractor-trailer, which "broke down," blocking the sole gate of the bus yard. The gate was also padlocked from the picket line side.

A prolonged battle with the police ensued, accompanied by a pathetic whining chorus of Laidlaw officials. When a cop tow truck finally arrived, the Teamsters' truck mysteriously started up and escaped being towed.

By this time members of USWA Local 8751, Boston School Bus Drivers and Monitors, who brought their solidarity, their research information on Laidlaw and the experience of the many successful strikes against the bus companies and the City of Boston, joined the picket line. The street thundered with chants denouncing Laidlaw, scabs and corporate greed. The picket line swelled. Boston Police brought in reinforcements to harass the line.

When a bus loaded with scabs attempted to leave the yard the picketers heroically fought to defend their strike. The Union carried the day. Not one scab had crossed the line to pick up school children.

That evening the superintendents of both Newton and Brookline held press conferences stating that due to "violence on the picket line" they would not permit any Laidlaw buses to pick up students until the strike was settled.

The following morning at 5:00 a.m., USWA activists at all four Boston bus yards distributed a solidarity leaflet to all 1,200 members of the local. It stated in part, "Our history has taught us that solidarity is critical in any union battle for justice. We are calling on all union members and supporters to come down to the lines and show your solidarity.

"We must demonstrate in action the old union slogan that `an injury to one is an injury to all' and stand with these brothers and sisters. Their fight is our fight."

Regional Laidlaw boss Paul Keith, fearing that the Brookline/Newton "problem" might spread to Boston, agreed to withdraw all Boston management from the Laidlaw scab campaign.

Later that day federal mediators were called in and a contract settlement was reached. The overwhelming majority of the drivers voted to accept the pact, which included a $2.50-per-hour raise spread over the life of the contract as well as important gains on family-health benefits.

These drivers still have a long way to go to receive economic justice and parity with their Boston sisters and brothers. However their valiant struggle against this corporate parasite has once again proved that united labor action plus solidarity is a winning combination.

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
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