USW Local 8751’s Rank-and-File Migrant Workforce Heroically Battling Global Union-Buster Veolia
Defend a union that epitomizes organized labor’s new inclusive approach to organizing the 99%!
Contact: Garry Merchison (339) 364-0999
Andre Francois (617) 759-9033
In late October, Veolia Transportation flew top executives from Los Angeles, St. Louis and Texas to its offices in Boston. Their purpose? To oversee the firing of five leaders of the Boston school bus drivers’ union.
So far the global conglomerate’s plans to fire the five Boston drivers have been stymied by the drivers’ fierce resistance. At the first disciplinary hearing on October 23, hundreds of school bus drivers – 95% immigrant workers from Haiti and Cape Verde — crowded the entrance to Veolia’s office. Veolia’s management decided not to fire the drivers on that day, and scheduled the next hearing for October 28.
Again, hundreds of the rank-and-file as well as community supporters and Boston trade unionists showed up to occupy Veolia’s parking lot. The executives’ plans were pushed back. No workers were fired.
The next hearing has been set for October 31 at 3:00 PM — at 35 Freeport Way in Dorchester — and Veolia remains hellbent on firing the leadership of the local. The company didn’t fly executives to Boston for nothing.
In a fierce struggle that broke out when Veolia committed an Unfair Labor Practice lockout of 700 school bus drivers, Local 8751 has been waging a heroic fight against the global union-buster.
Leading to the lockout was a series of contract violations, constant shortages in paychecks and an attempt to impose further wage cuts through an insidious GPS-based pay scheme.
Everywhere Veolia gets a contract to manage a city service, it sparks struggles and strikes. It is legendary for running city services into the ground while profiting handsomely. In Indianapolis, the city cancelled its 20-year water contract with Veolia halfway through. Just this week, the city of St. Louis decided not to grant Veolia a water consulting contract.
It’s no accident that the recent BART workers’ strike — in which two workers were killed by a management-operated train — took place against a negotiating team that included Veolia Vice President Thomas P. Hock. The Boston school bus drivers’ struggle is on the front lines of a worldwide fight against the ravages of privatization.
It’s also a fight by a union that exemplarizes the new approach by the AFL-CIO, SEIU and the ILWU to increase collaboration between labor and the community.
Local 8751’s very existence and mission is bound up with the struggle of African-American and other oppressed communities for equal education since the desegregation of Boston’s schools by court-ordered busing in 1974.
The local has continued the fight against repeated attempts to re-segregate Boston schools. For this purpose its leaders recently formed an alliance with unions, parents and groups like the Black Educators Alliance of Massachusetts and the Coalition for Equal Quality Education.
The union has also been active in the struggle for LGBTQ rights, mobilized against every war since the 1970s, and rallied daily with Occupy Boston and Occupy the Hood during the encampment’s heyday. Their activists led militant marches with Verizon and hotel workers, set up sound trucks for anti-war and labor marches, and participated in teach-ins, community speak- outs and veterans’ demonstrations.
Local 8751 is known for organizing long-distance solidarity trips. The local was a strong presence at last year’s march against Wells Fargo and Bank of America at the March Against Wall Street South in North Carolina, a “right-to-work” state.
This year during the bitter monthlong school bus drivers’ strike in New York, USWA Local 8751 sent a busload of its members to join the picketlines there and protest outside of billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg’s house. Veolia bosses are well acquainted with this fact: they included a video from that solidarity trip in their “evidence” being used to “prove” the case for union leaders’ termination!
Veolia is a huge company with 65,000 employees all over the world. Even though the valiant struggle of the union has pushed it back so far, real solidarity in winning this struggle is critical. Already the union has formed a defense committee utilizing the ties it has built up with local churches, teachers’ organizations and other Boston unions. For it to win it needs the backing of the entire progressive movement.
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