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News ::
Victory for Marcus Jean! (english)
27 Nov 2002
Victory for Marcus Jean! Labor and Anti war activists unite to
defeat “Homeland Security” style racist anti union frame up!
By Steve Kirschbaum, Boston Labor’s Answer, member USWA 8751
Boston Nov. 21- On Thursday, Nov. 14th a West Roxbury Court jury returned its verdict of Not Guilty, after less than 30 minutes of deliberation, in the case of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Marcus Jean. This brings to a successful conclusion a critical phase in the struggle to win justice for Jean, a Boston School Bus driver and militant activist member of United Steelworkers of America (USWA), Local 8751.

It also represents an important victory for the anti war movement and the movement to defend labor’s rights. As reported in a front-page article entitled Bus Driver Cleared of Terror Threat Charges in the current Boston Banner, the newspaper of Boston’s African American Community, peoples’ lawyer Barry Wilson explained in his closing remarks to the jury that this case represents Laidlaw Corporation’s cynical use of the governments’ Post 911 pro war hysteria to fire a union activist.

Laidlaw, which is in Chapter 11 Bankrupcy, had targeted Jean as part of their policy to weed out Union militants who stand up to their plans to downsize, cutback wages and tighten their iron handed grip on the workforce. Last January 30th Mr. Jean was involved in a minor disagreement with another driver concerning a bus parking spot. Jean and his union steward met with Readville Asst. Manager Diane Kelly and resolved the matter. No warning or discipline of any kind was issued. The following morning Readville Terminal Manger Rick McLaughlin, in a provocative and threatening manner tried to interrogate Mr. Jean about this same incident. Jean knew that this was a gross violation of his union right’s and called McLaughlin on his racist discrimination and refused to submit to unjust management harassment.

This dispute was happening in the context of dozens of union cases against McLaughlin for harassment, intimidation and threats against union drivers. That afternoon McLaughlin went to the police and claimed that Marcus Jean repeatedly threatened to blow up the building and that he posed a serious “terrorist” threat. The Boston Police Report sites Laidlaw Corporation as the “victim”. McLaughlin subsequently fired Jean for this false charge.

Laidlaw and Government conspire in “Homeland Security” frame up

Government attacks on the labor movement are nothing new. The Teamsters, AFSCME, SEIU, the Steelworkers are just a few of the recent targets of this management tool. Injunctions during strikes, false “Rico” charges, and fraudulent persecution by the so-called Labor Department have become routine.

However Bush’s “enduring war” hysteria has qualitatively upped the ante on the attacks on Labor. The Bush/Ashcroft “Homeland Security” machine clearly has the unions in its sights. The White House has given the green light to Corporate America to use the war to declare war on union rights. When Homeland Security Boss Tom Ridge recently called the president of the ILWU dockworkers in California to threaten the union against taking any action in support of their rights under the guise of national security the message was clear. Bush’s subsequent invoking of the notoriously anti union Taft Hartly against the ILWU furthers this pattern.

The March 2002 issue of the Unity Bulletin, the rank and file newsletter of Local 8751 explains that Marcus Jean’s case is part of “a national wave of government directed anti-immigrant hysteria sweeping the country” which includes racist profiling, government detention of Arab people without charges and racist violence against immigrant communities. It is in this context that the District Attorney for Massachusetts embarked on a 10-month prosecution of an innocent Haitian Union activist based on the uncorroborated story of a racist Laidlaw boss.

Boston Labor’s ANSWER leads struggle to defend Marcus Jean

It is regrettable that much of the leadership of the unions on a Local and International level has been unable to respond to the Corporate/Government attacks on the unions in the post 911-war climate. This was the case with Marcus Jean.

However the rank and file members need and are ready to fight back. Boston Labor’s ANSWER, made up of activists from the coalition Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, established the Marcus Jean Defense Committee. The Committee secured the top criminal attorney in the region, people’s lawyer Barry Wilson, knowing that he would bring the struggle of the street into the courtroom. ANSWER activists launched a full scale, all out defense campaign to mobilize support, which included packing every court appearance, getting endorsers, holding picket lines and press conferences, speaking at churches and community meetings and spreading the word through the Internet. The Committee conducted a massive letter campaign to the DA demanding that the charges be dropped. Marcus Jean spoke at and marched on countless ANSWER protests against war in Iraq and in defense of Palestine. He was a featured speaker at the June 29th Rally at FBI headquarters in Washington D.C. against the Patriot Act.

This campaign to defend Marcus Jean is a concrete expression of ANSWER’s view that Bush’s war has a domestic front. The anti war movement must also fight on this front in order to build unity with the labor movement. This unity is key to a vital anti war movement. The Marcus Jean Defense Committee will continue the struggle to demand that Laidlaw reinstate him to his job with full back pay and benefits.

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