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News :: Labor
Unionized School Bus Drivers Rally in Dorchester
02 Feb 2014
Hundreds of workers rallied for labor union rights in Boston.
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The Boston School Bus Drivers labor union the United Steel Workers (USW) Local 8751 held a demonstration in the Dorchester section of Boston outside one of the main school bus yards. A crowd of 300 workers and allies gathered to give a militant show of support to labor union leaders who have been fired. Ever since Veolia Transportation took over the operation of the Boston Public Schools bus fleet in July, 2013 some 700 drivers, organized in United Steel Workers (USW) Local 8751, have endured a steady stream of abuse from this vindictive employer. Trampling on the union contract negotiated by its predecessor, the new management has flouted long-established work rules, including by arbitrarily reassigning routes, and made a practice of shortchanging drivers on their paychecks when finally getting around to distributing them. Boston’s embattled school bus drivers, who are largely Haitian, Cape Verdean and Latino, have fought back. Today's protest was a part of that struggle. A brief video to give a feeling of the crowd of workers demonstrating for their rights is on Dailymotion video share site at And on Vimeo at - The title is " Boston Union Bus Drivers Rally 1 Feb 2014 " for the seven minute video emphasizing the crowd not the speeches.
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Re: Unionized School Bus Drivers Rally in Dorchester
11 Feb 2014
One month after the wildcat strike
Boston school bus drivers need new strategy to fight company attacks - WSWS

15 November 2013

This statement was distributed to Boston, Massachusetts school bus drivers on November 14, 2014 at a meeting of the United Steel Workers Local 8751.

More than one month after the wildcat strike of Boston school bus drivers, none of the grievances of workers against school bus contractor Veolia that led to the action have been addressed or resolved.

The one-day strike on October 8 provoked the ire of the entire political establishment. Democratic Mayor Thomas Menino denounced the “illegal work stoppage” and threatened the drivers with legal action, declaring, “We will not allow them to use our students as pawns.” The drivers’ action was also opposed by their own union, the United Steelworkers. USW District 4 Director John Shinn said in a statement the day the strike broke out: “The USW does not condone the current action, or any violation of our collective bargaining agreement, and has instructed all members of Local 8751 to immediately cease this strike ... and resume work as soon as possible.”

These denunciations by Democratic Party politicians and union officials were quickly followed by the suspension by Veolia of five local officials: Steven Kirschbaum, Steve Gillis, Andre Francis, Garry Murchison and Richard Lynch. Lynch was subsequently reinstated, but the other four have been fired. The firings are aimed at intimidating the entire workforce, and a campaign for reinstatement of the four who remain fired is central to the ongoing struggle of bus drivers.

The Socialist Equality Party’s defense of Kirschbaum and the other local leaders against victimization in no way implies agreement with their politics. On the contrary, in order for the bus drivers to develop a struggle against the attacks of Veolia, it is necessary that workers know who are their friends and who are their enemies. While posing as defenders of the rank and file, Kirschbaum and the other local union leaders play a key role in keeping workers tied to the USW and the Democratic Party establishment.

Kirschbaum is a long-time member of the Workers World Party. This organization consistently covers for the union bureaucracy and the Democrats, who are hostile to the interests of the working class. A founder of Local 8751, Kirschbaum was central to the negotiation of the present contract and its no-strike clause with Veolia’s predecessor, First Student. An article by Steve Gillis in Workers World published January 14, 2012, titled “Bus drivers’ union wins historic contract,” makes no mention of the no-strike clause that Veolia is now utilizing to victimize workers for the wildcat.

The contract states under Article 16, Section 1: “The Union agrees that there will be no strikes, stoppages of work, or slowdowns during the life of this Agreement.” Section 2 states that the company agrees not to conduct a lockout, and Section 3 states: “The Union agrees that in the event of any violation of Section 1 of this Article the Union will immediately order that such violation cease and that the work be fully resumed.”

Thus on October 8, the United Steelworkers—including the district director, Kirschbaum and other local leaders—told the drivers to end the strike and get back to work. The entire campaign of the USW now amounts to a legal appeal based on the claim that workers did not strike, but were locked out after demanding a meeting with Veolia to address their grievances.

In reality, what took place October 8 was a wildcat action that caught the entire political establishment—the union included—by surprise. When Local 8751 President Dumond Louis and other officials attempted to order workers back to work they were shouted down by drivers who said that the union, which was taking money out of their pockets, had done nothing to defend them. Instead of defending the strikers and exposing their grievances to the public, the USW joined management and the mayor’s denunciations of the drivers, paving the way for the victimizations that have now taken place.

While the drivers returned to work the next day, the significance of the wildcat strike cannot be buried. The dispute was a result of the systematic undermining of workers’ rights by Veolia since taking over the contract in July. None of the issues confronting workers—pay discrepancies, changes to work schedules, dictatorial management styles—have been addressed.

Crucial political lessons must now be drawn if the fight is to be taken forward. Clear class lines have been drawn in this dispute. On the one side stand 700 workers determined to fight for their rights, allied with parents, students and working people throughout the city, and on the other stand not only Veolia, but the entire political establishment, Democrat and Republican, as well as the drivers’ own union.

The struggle of the Boston school bus drivers is linked to that of workers across the country facing similar issues. School bus workers in New York City conducted a month-long strike early this year in defense of wages and job security. The strike was betrayed by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 and other city unions, which isolated the struggle and ended the walkout on New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s terms.

Workers in Northern California faced similar issues last month when a four-day strike of 2,300 Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) workers was called off by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). The unions accepted all of the basic demands of BART management, including concessions on pensions and health care and changes in work rules to further undermine working conditions.

Everywhere, the demands of the ruling class are the same. Under conditions of record inequality, workers are being told that they must give up everything. Wages and benefits must be slashed, and social services cut, in order to funnel ever greater sums into the stock market and finance the massive payouts to the corporate and financial elite.

The issues confronting Boston school bus drivers are not due simply to the ruthlessness of Veolia management. If Veolia were replaced tomorrow by another company, none of the drivers’ grievances would be addressed or resolved in their favor. They would be still working under a contract that denies the right to strike, and they would be still subject to dictatorial management. Any new company taking over the contract would seek to operate at the lowest cost and maximize its profits through the brutal exploitation of the workforce.

In order to defend its interests, the working class needs new organizations to mobilize its strength both industrially and politically. If the school bus drivers’ fight is to be taken forward, it can only be done independently of the United Steelworkers union and the Democratic Party apparatus.

There is an urgent need for the building of a genuine rank-and-file committee of bus drivers to link their struggle with the struggles of workers throughout the city and across the country. The fight to defend bus workers must be connected to a campaign against the ongoing restructuring of the Boston Public Schools system, which is threatened with further school closures, privatizations and attacks on the jobs and working conditions of teachers and staff. Bus drivers, teachers, school workers and parents need to unite in a working class opposition to the attack on public education and workers’ rights.

The defense of jobs and decent working conditions can be secured only through a struggle against the capitalist profit system and in defense of the social rights of the working class. This is what the Socialist Equality Party fights for. We urge bus drivers to contact us to discuss the program and perspective needed to take this struggle forward.


The Boston school bus drivers’ wildcat strike
11 October 2013

On Tuesday, hundreds of Boston school bus drivers carried out an unauthorized wildcat strike. The action reflects deep social tensions that exist not only in Boston, Massachusetts, but throughout the country and internationally.

Workers said they walked out because they had been cheated on their paychecks and subjected to speedup, electronic monitoring and abuse by Veolia Transportation, the multinational corporation that recently won the school district contract to transport 33,000 students.

The action caught the entire political establishment, including the union that ostensibly represents the 700 drivers, by surprise. On Tuesday morning United Steelworkers Local 8751 President Dumond Louis and other officials attempted to order workers back to work. They were shouted down by drivers who said the union, which was taking money out of their pockets, had done nothing to defend them.

Officials from the city, management and the media reacted with rage, denouncing workers for supposedly abandoning school children and being “selfish.” At a City Hall press conference, Democratic Mayor Tom Menino denounced the “illegal work stoppage,” threatened workers with legal action, and declared, “We will not allow them to use our students as pawns.”

Coming from a mayor who has slashed millions in public school funding and laid off hundreds of teachers and school employees, the suggestion that it is school bus drivers who do not care about children is especially rich. Moreover, while Menino was castigating drivers for shutting down the school system, the entire federal government has been shut down by the Obama administration and Congressional Republicans as they work out new attacks on health care and retirement programs.

As if it were not enough to be slandered by the employers and political establishment, the workers also faced the scorn of the United Steelworkers union, which was angered that the drivers’ job action would disrupt the union’s cozy relationship with Veolia, the school authorities and City Hall. Instead of defending the strikers and explaining their grievances to the public, the USW joined management and the mayor’s denunciations, paving the way for the victimization of the striking workers.

“The USW does not condone the current action,” USW District 4 Director John Shinn declared in a statement, adding that the union had “instructed all members of Local 8751 to immediately cease this strike” and “resume work as soon as possible.”

The drivers have now gone back to work, but the social and political significance of the act remains, and the lessons must be drawn.

It is an extraordinary fact that for more than 30 years, virtually every manifestation of organized working-class resistance and class struggle has been suppressed in the United States. This in a country that for more than a century, going back all the way to the 1870s, had seen decade after decade of mass strikes and violent social protest.

Since the mid-1980s, however, there has been a virtual disappearance of strikes. What accounts for this?

The disappearance of overt forms of working-class struggle is bound up with the collapse of the AFL-CIO and what was known as the American labor movement, and its integration into the structures of corporate management and the state.

The transformation of the trade unions is bound up with both objective and subjective factors. First, the globalization of capitalist production and the decline of American capitalism, which rapidly developed from the 1980s onward, undermined the program of national reformism on which the unions were based. The nationally based unions had no response to the ruling elite’s ability to move production out of the US and exploit a worldwide pool of labor.

The officials who controlled these organizations, already committed to a defense of the capitalist system, responded to these developments by embracing a corporatist program of “labor-management partnership.” They abandoned even the minimal function of the unions as defensive organizations of the working class.

The erstwhile union “bureaucrat” has become a businessman whose high salary and upper middle-class lifestyle depend on policing the workforce and cutting labor costs in order to boost corporate profits. Union executives were rewarded with shares, seats on corporate boards and the control of multibillion-dollar pension funds, becoming secondary shareholders in the process of exploitation.

The class struggle has not disappeared in America. However, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it has been waged on only one side.

As a consequence, the American working class has suffered a historic regression in its living standards and social position, while inequality has reached levels unparalleled in modern American history.

Between 1979 and 2012, the wage of the median worker in the US rose by only five percent, despite an increase in productivity of 75 percent, while the income of the richest one percent has quadrupled.

Signs of popular discontent are building up everywhere in America. The actions of the Boston workers are only one initial expression of the seething anger in the social powder keg of America. Such actions will be repeated and developed throughout the country.

The Socialist Equality Party welcomes and encourages every manifestation of opposition. But if these struggles are to be successful, they must be based on a clear perspective.

First, for these struggles to develop, they must be conducted independently of and in opposition to the official unions. Workers must be freed from any organizational control of these anti-labor organizations and develop new forms of democratic and popular organization, including factory and workplace committees, to conduct their struggles.

Second, workers must recognize the connection between the conditions they face and the capitalist system, a society based on the enrichment of a tiny handful at the expense of the working class that collectively produces society’s wealth. The defense of every serious social right of the working class poses the necessity for a struggle against the domination of the corporations and banks over economic and political life.

Flowing from this, the workplace and industrial struggles must assume a political character. Workers must break from the two parties of big business, the political defenders of capitalism, and build a mass political movement whose aim is the fight for workers’ power. The working class can only end the stranglehold of the corporations and banks by establishing a workers’ government and reorganizing economic and political life along socialist lines to meet human needs, not private profit.

Finally, the battle facing American workers is part of a broader struggle of the international working class. Workers in the US, China, Mexico, Brazil and all over the world confront the same capitalist enemy and must unite internationally in order to coordinate their struggles against the globally organized corporations that are attacking their jobs and living standards.

To advance this perspective, a new leadership and political movement of the working class is necessary. That is the Socialist Equality Party.


Union reps suspended over Boston school bus drivers wildcat strike
By Kate Randall
11 October 2013

Two union leaders have been suspended in connection with the Boston school bus drivers wildcat strike that halted transportation Tuesday for 33,000 students at the city’s public, private and parochial schools. Veolia Corp., the private company contracted to run the bus system, says additional drivers are under investigation.

Drivers returned to work Wednesday following promises from their union, the United Steel Workers (USW), and Veolia that they would meet to discuss the workers’ grievances. The one-day work stoppage was sparked by anger over the practices of Veolia, which took over the contract for Boston Public Schools (BPS) transportation in July.

The workers’ union, USW Local 8751, and USW District 4 actively opposed the strike, but were unable to stop it. The union sided openly with Veolia management and the city administration of Mayor Thomas Menino in branding the wildcat “illegal.”

The school bus drivers are angered over discrepancies in workers’ pay, changes in work schedules, and Veolia Corp.’s dictatorial management style. They want Veolia to stop using a GPS tracking system—and software initially installed to help parents track their children’s bus routes—to evaluate workers’ performance and pay. Hundreds of workers on a weekly basis charge Veolia is shortchanging them on their paychecks.

USW officials arrived for a meeting with Veolia at a Quincy hotel on Wednesday with a list of 16 demands. Number one on this list was “complete and total amnesty” for all union members involved in Tuesday’s wildcat. Over the course of 11 hours, the union and company representatives never actually met face to face, but communicated through their lawyers who ferried back and forth between the two sides in separate rooms.

The union announced Wednesday night that Veolia had placed two union leaders on leave, but did not identify them. The company also says that a total of seven bus drivers are being investigated in connection with Tuesday’s wildcat. The majority of drivers reported to work Thursday with the union and management no closer to an agreement on the workers’ grievances.

On Thursday morning, a small group of drivers tried unsuccessfully to block others from boarding their buses and leaving the Readville yard in Hyde Park, according to a BPS spokesman. Mid-morning, two union leaders showed up at the depot for a discussion with drivers. They had been reportedly ordered by Veolia not to show up at the yard, and were escorted off the premises by Boston police. Some of the drivers followed them and the group held an impromptu rally outside the depot gates.

One of those told to leave the Readville yard was Steve Kirschbaum, chairman of the union’s grievance committee, with long-time connections to the pseudo-left Workers World Party. The day before he had urged a return to work, saying that Veolia could be convinced to listen to the drivers’ grievances. Veolia spokeswoman Valerie Michael declined to say whether Kirschbaum was one of the two union leaders who had been placed on paid leave.

On Wednesday, officials in the Menino administration had fingered Kirschbaum and Local 8751 Vice President Steven Gillis as the instigators of Tuesday’s strike. Menino aide Marie St. Fleur denounced wildcat strikers who taken a stand against Veolia to defend their rights. Insulting the drivers, she implied that the mostly immigrant workforce had been hoodwinked and bullied into striking.

“This was a group of renegades who decides to violate the terms of the contract of every driver who came to work on Tuesday,” St. Fleur said Wednesday in an interview with the Boston Globe. “That faction caused intimidation and created disruption in the lives of families and children of this city.”

St. Fleur, of Haitian descent, said that the majority of Haitian, Cape Verdean and Latino drivers were unfamiliar with labor relations in the US and the procedures for getting their grievances heard. In other words, they should keep quiet, listen to their union leaders and rely on the National Labor Relations Board to fight their battles.

With Veolia refusing at this point to accede to any of the school bus drivers’ demands, the situation remains tenuous and the possibility of a future job action is a distinct possibility. While USW officials continue to assure city authorities that the wildcat was a “mistake” that will not be repeated, city and BPS officials are advising parents to check daily on the status of school bus transportation. A notice on the BPS web site reads: “Unfortunately we do not have confidence that service will continue every day. Parents should continue to have alternate plans in place.”
Re: Unionized School Bus Drivers Rally in Dorchester
11 Feb 2014
Workers Vanguard No. 1035 29 November 2013

Boston - Reinstate Fired School Bus Union Leaders!

Boston school bus drivers, organized in United Steel Workers (USW) Local 8751, are fighting a vendetta against union leaders for a brief job action last month provoked by labor-hating Veolia Transportation (see “Boston Job Action: No Reprisals Against School Bus Drivers!” WV No. 1033, 1 November). Since it took over management of the buses in June, the company had trampled on the union contract, threatening safety, shortchanging drivers on their paychecks and effectively forcing them to reapply for their jobs. When on October 8 drivers refused to roll out the buses unless management agreed to a meeting with the union, the bosses locked out the workforce for the day, bringing in police to help clear the yards. Veolia sought to make special examples of the “School Bus Union 5.” Grievance committee chairman Stevan Kirschbaum, vice president Steve Gillis, recording secretary Andre Francois, stewards Garry Murchison and Richard Lynch were suspended. Except for Lynch, all were later fired.

Large numbers of the heavily Haitian and Cape Verdean drivers and their supporters mobilized for protests outside the disciplinary hearing for the School Bus Union 5 at the end of October. In response to the subsequent firings of the Local 8751 officials, some of whom have long been supported by the reformist Workers World Party (WWP), a day of solidarity was held on November 9. Hundreds of people, including trade unionists from other cities, rallied at the Freeport bus yard and marched to company headquarters, chanting “Union! Union!” Management, though, has thus far proved intransigent. Not one of the demands presented by the union right after the work stoppage, which the company deemed illegal, has been met. To help beat back this open union-busting, all of labor must stand behind the drivers. Reinstate Kirschbaum, Gillis, Francois and Murchison! An injury to one is an injury to all!

Although the USW regional office renounced the job action at the time, providing ammunition for Veolia, the union’s top leadership has since stepped up to the plate to underwrite the defense effort. The San Francisco Labor Council and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1181 in New York City are among the union bodies that have issued solidarity statements, helping counter the redbaiting and union-bashing emanating from all quarters of the Boston elite. Such statements need to be turned into whatever actions are necessary to defeat the attack on Local 8751 by Veolia, an international outfit holding over 200 transportation contracts with cities, transit authorities and airports across North America. Wherever it sets up, this company’s first order of business is to attempt to bring the unions to heel. Impressed by its anti-union record, other employers have paid top dollar for its services, such as Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), which hired Veolia’s Thomas Hock to squeeze its unions in contract negotiations earlier this year.

The attacks on the poorly paid school bus drivers are the latest in the nationwide anti-labor barrage. In NYC, school bus drivers and matrons in ATU Local 1181 carried out a month-long strike earlier this year after Mayor Michael Bloomberg sought to strip them of job protections, only to see 100 of the strikers fired upon returning to work. On the West Coast, BART union members went on strike twice in recent months in an attempt to fend off major concessions. Everywhere, workers are under pressure to keep surrendering hard-won gains of the past, even as the capitalist exploiters pocket ever greater profits.

A major barrier to reversing this course is labor officialdom’s embrace of capitalist Democratic Party politicians. Unions nationwide contributed millions to help elect “friend of labor” Martin J. Walsh, the next mayor of Boston. But the reaction of this former head of the city’s Building and Construction Trades Council to the October 8 job action was barely distinguishable from that of current Democratic mayor Thomas Menino. Not mincing words, Walsh declared: “This is illegal, the actions taken by the drivers. I don’t condone it in any shape, manner, or form.” According to the Boston Globe (8 October), Walsh “has continuously insisted that he would be able to oversee tough negotiations with unions despite their heavy contributions to his campaign.” This stand underlines the fact that the Democratic Party, no less than the Republicans, is a party of the bosses.

Some Democrats on the City Council, notably Charles Yancey, have attended union rallies and expressed sympathy for the drivers. Yancey, whom WWP extols as a fighter for labor and black rights, offered to mediate on October 8 but was rebuffed by the company. A press release issued by his office the next day explained that “his immediate concern was to persuade bus drivers to return to work.” Seeking to divert workers struggle into bourgeois political channels, he orchestrated a November 21 City Council hearing on Veolia’s anti-union practices. Predictably, the event was snubbed by the mayor, school officials and the bus contractor, although the galleries were packed to overflowing by union members and their supporters.

The basis for the contention that the work stoppage was illegal, which was also the pretext for the firings, is the no-strike clause in the union contract—the only provision that Veolia and the city rulers consider binding. Such pledges by the union bureaucrats, which today are standard practice, bury labor’s most effective weapon in fighting the bosses. With the line drawn in Boston, all of labor should back Local 8751 as part of revitalizing the unions as fighting organizations against the bosses.


Workers Vanguard No. 1033

1 November 2013

Boston Job Action: No Reprisals Against School Bus Drivers!

Ever since Veolia Transportation took over the operation of the Boston Public Schools bus fleet in July, some 700 drivers, organized in United Steel Workers (USW) Local 8751, have endured a steady stream of abuse from this vindictive employer. Trampling on the union contract negotiated by its predecessor, the new management has flouted long-established work rules, including by arbitrarily reassigning routes, and made a practice of shortchanging drivers on their paychecks when finally getting around to distributing them. Such a declaration of war on the unions is nothing new for Veolia, which is part of a multinational conglomerate with its hooks in several major industries across the globe. It is no coincidence that Bay Area Rapid Transit shelled out nearly $400,000 to bring in Veolia’s Thomas P. Hock as the chief negotiator with its unions earlier this year and had this notorious outfit run scab shuttles when union members went on strike (see article on page 12).

Boston’s embattled school bus drivers, who are largely Haitian, Cape Verdean and Latino, fought back. On the morning of October 8, they reported to work at their assigned hours but refused to board their buses until management agreed to meet with the union. The bosses would have none of it: workers were ordered off company property, and the gates were locked behind them. Pickets went up at all four bus yards in protest, even though the USW district director criminally disavowed the job action. The next day, bus service resumed as Veolia sat down with representatives from Local 8751. Here the union reps presented a list of demands, beginning with “complete and total amnesty” for all members.

In response, the company served letters of suspension to Local 8751 grievance committee chairman Stevan Kirschbaum and vice president Steve Gillis. A few days later, recording secretary Andre Francois and stewards Garry Murchison and Richard Lynch were also suspended. Even as the threat of further reprisals hangs over their heads, the workforce remains unbowed. Large numbers of drivers and other supporters turned out for rallies outside the disciplinary hearing for the “School Bus Union 5” on October 23 and 28. With Veolia gunning for their jobs, the hearing is scheduled to continue. All Boston city labor should demand: Reinstate all suspended union officials! No reprisals against bus drivers!

The city rulers and their kept media have fanned the flames against Local 8751, with Democratic Party mayor Thomas Menino vowing to “make sure this illegal behavior has consequences.” Ripping a page from the “red scare” playbook, the mayor especially wants the heads of Kirschbaum and Gillis, who are supported by the reformist Workers World Party (WWP), because they are a “rogue element” and “rabble rousers who cause trouble.” In a thinly veiled attempt to stoke the city’s ever-glowing embers of anti-black and anti-immigrant hostility, he also berated the workforce as “selfish people who only want to cause disruption in our city.” A City Hall aide contemptuously added that “most of these drivers did not know what was going on.”

The very opposite is true: the drivers knew the score all too well. They did not fold in the face of Veolia’s intransigence or the efforts of the USW regional leadership to squash the walkout. When the Local 8751 president tried to convince the drivers at the Readville bus depot to resume work with nothing to show for their protest by pleading that “we have to do it legally,” he was shouted down with cries of “no!” If workers over the years had confined themselves to what the bosses deem legal, as the labor bureaucrats preach, there never would have even been unions in the first place.

The school bus drivers union traces its history back four decades to the fight to integrate Boston’s public schools through busing. When these plans were defeated by an alliance of liberals in Congress and howling mobs of racists in the streets, the floodgates were opened to a nationwide assault on school desegregation, foreshadowing the rollback of hard-won civil rights for black people nationwide. (See “As Racist Mobs Rampaged, Liberals and Reformists Knifed Busing,” WV No. 921, 26 September 2008.)

At the time, the Spartacist League intervened into the struggles to defend busing as a minimal application of the elementary democratic right of black people to equality in education. We called on the integrated union movement, including the city’s bus drivers, to mobilize labor/black defense of the besieged black school children. But the WWP and Socialist Workers Party acted as lackeys for black Democratic Party liberals who sought to channel outrage over the racist backlash into calls for state intervention, spreading the illusion that the same capitalist state that murderously repressed black militants could be relied on to defend black rights. Workers World is still very much into burnishing the credentials of black Democrats, such as councilman Charles Yancey, for purportedly “fighting racism and injustice in Boston” (, 2 December 2007).

Countless defeats have resulted from hitching struggles to the Democratic Party—one of the two main parties of the class enemy. Yancey, who accompanied union officials to Veolia offices during the lockout, later announced on his Facebook page that he “DID NOT support the actions taken by the bus drivers.” He might take a different posture than the mayor, who wants to strangle Local 8751 and bring back neighborhood schools. Yet “friend of labor” Democrats are no less committed to maintaining the capitalist system of exploitation in which the roots of black oppression are lodged. Avowed socialists who are respected by their co-workers, such as Kirschbaum and Gillis, can help give militant expression to the immediate demands of a workforce. But lacking a program for the political independence of the proletariat, they cannot chart a way forward for the labor movement, much less for getting rid of the system of capitalist wage slavery altogether.
Re: Unionized School Bus Drivers Rally in Dorchester
20 Feb 2014
Bus drivers, allies push for fired workers to be re-hired By Gintautas Dumcius, Feb. 6, 2014
( )

When school bus drivers, warring with the company that oversees the buses, went on strike in early October, in the midst of a mayoral election, they were largely on their own with little political support.

Marty Walsh and John Connolly, two candidates in the middle of a mayoral election, condemned their illegal action, widely described as a “wild cat” strike. A furious Mayor Thomas Menino demanded that they return to work as school officials scrambled to find other ways to get children to school that morning.

Even the United Steelworkers union, which includes the bus drivers as its members, called for them to end the strike.

But last Saturday, the United Steelworkers were singing a different tune, as they joined a rally to reinstate four bus driver union leaders who had been fired as a result of the strike.

The Massachusetts arm of the AFL-CIO also supported the rally and their reinstatement. Despite fliers touting his appearance and organizers who said he would be there, the state’s AFL-CIO chief, Steve Tolman, was “tied up” that day and could not make it, according to one union official who was at the rally.

The rally, held at the corner of Hoyt St. and Dorchester Ave., drew around 150 people. It was also a showcase for several causes, with some attendees pushing pro-Palestinian messages, carrying a Green-Rainbow Party banner, and waving a Sudanese flag.

District 4 Councillor Charles Yancey, the only candidate for mayor the bus drivers’ union endorsed last year, appeared at the rally, as did 1983 mayoral candidate Mel King, and TOUCH 106.1 FM co-founder Charles Clemons.

Andrew Slipp, a staff representative for the United Steelworkers, said his union initially believed in October that it was an illegal strike by rogue bus drivers. “Early on, it appeared to be the case,” Slipp said. But now the union believes the company, Veolia, locked the bus drivers out of the yards.
“Huge difference,” Slipp said.

Rich Rogers, the executive secretary-treasurer of the Greater Boston Labor Council, declined to comment when asked whether he believed the bus drivers had an illegal strike. He referred questions on that to Slipp.

But during the rally, Rogers took the microphone and addressed the 200 or so, slamming Veolia and saying his labor group was with the union “100 percent.”

“We will be with this union until this is straightened out,” he said.

Bishop Filipe Teixeira, a frequent presence at a variety of community protests over the years, also spoke. He demanded that Marty Walsh, now the mayor, call Veolia on Monday and tell them to give the four bus drivers their jobs back. “They need to live just like anybody else,” he said.

Walsh, a longtime labor leader, is declining to do so, saying “it’s not my job” and citing the contract the drivers have with Veolia. “There’s a process for the bus drivers to try and get reinstated,” Walsh said on Tuesday. “They can follow the process. There is a collective bargaining agreement in place. They refused to go to work. So, I mean I don’t want to talk too much more about it than that because they’re going through the arbitration process.”

Asked if he still believed it was an illegal strike, Walsh said, “Yeah, at the time I did and I felt the contract in place, you have to live by the terms of the agreement.”

The agreement does not allow for a strike. The union has a list of grievances against Veolia, which took over the contract last year.

Most of the rally’s vitriol was aimed at the company. “We will bring you down,” shouted Steve Kirschbaum, one of the four union members who were fired.
Re: Unionized School Bus Drivers Rally in Dorchester
02 Mar 2014
Vermont Bus Drivers to Strike over Dangerous Schedules - See more at:

Bus drivers in northern Vermont have voted 53-4 to strike against unsafe conditions, surveillance and discipline, and part-time status. The walkout is set for March 10.

The strong local solidarity they’ve mustered could serve as an example for drivers and transit workers battling similarly extreme conditions around the country. Over the last few decades 85 percent of transit authorities have pushed drivers to accept part-time conditions.

At a pair of February 19 community rallies, an array of unions, Vermont Workers’ Center members, students, politicians, and parents of school kids who ride the buses pledged to “walk with the drivers” if a fair contract is not resolved.

The “long work days, split shifts, and forced overtime” scheduled by the Chittenden County Transit Authority are dangerous, said Teamsters Local 597 member Rob Slingerland at a community speak-out held at the Cherry Street Bus Terminal. The event was organized by rank-and-file drivers together with a coalition of unions and community groups.

Slingerland’s schedule, for example, has him working from 6:50 to 9 a.m., then from 2:20 to 7:20 p.m. So he is paid for only seven hours’ work, but “my day’s total spread is 12.5 hours,” he explained. “The contract says we can be forced up to a 15-hour spread. Because of that, they’re telling us we have to be available for that 15 hours but only being paid for the hours worked.”

He said the drivers want maximum work day hours, real breaks, and better schedules.

“These sound like workplace issues from 1914, not 2014,” said Denise Youngblood, president of the faculty union at the University of Vermont.
'The Last Ones Thought Of'

“Every day we put the lives of our friends and families and ourselves in their hands,” said Burlington City Councilor Rachel Siegel. “Is it just to ask a driver to go without a bathroom break and end up urinating in their pants? Is it just to ask workers to drive to the point of fatigue and accidents?

“Do we need to wait for a tragedy before we take action? I hope not.”

In its 41 years CCTA has seen multiple expansions of routes, a $3.1 million investment in new buses in 2008, and a $3.3 million investment in new buses equipped with Wi-Fi in 2012. It has advocated for construction of a $15 million downtown transit hub and a $10 million bus station. According to its own figures, ridership has grown by 63 percent. Its mission describes it as “enhanc[ing] the quality of life for all.”

But the drivers are “the last ones being thought of,” said State Senator Ginny Lyons. “You can’t have capital expansion, increasing infrastructure, more buses, without carefully ensuring each step of the way you have money for operations, and that means drivers.”

The Vermont AFL-CIO has ordered a huge number of “CCTA Fair Contract Now” lawn signs, a public forum will be held in Burlington City Hall, and an informational picket is set for next week.

“As a passenger I am very passionate about the drivers’ ability to be treated with respect,” said Workers’ Center member and mother Anna Gebhart, “because the safety of commuters equals safe and fair working conditions for them.”
Running the Union from Below

The drivers’ rank-and-file contract campaign, with a strong emphasis on community solidarity, marks the turning of a page.

In 2009 a group of CCTA drivers formed the Sunday Morning Breakfast Club as an informal caucus. The caucus, which aimed to change Local 597’s top-down, bureaucratic culture, got advice and support from Teamsters for a Democratic Union. Its members formed an activist core that has mobilized very successfully to win the right to elect stewards (previously appointed) and to open up bargaining to drivers.

Locally “there were two things going on,” says former driver Chuck Norris-Brown: “the actual Teamster meetings with the local and the Sunday Morning Breakfast Club.”

Since then, Slingerland says, Local 597’s current assistant business agent, Tony St. Hilaire, has embraced the TDUers. St. Hilaire has come to the Breakfast Club to hear members’ issues and share food. In one such meeting, St. Hilaire said, “I want to know where the drivers want to go next.” Chief Steward Mike Walker, one of the Sunday Breakfast Club members, is on the bargaining team.

During heated 2011 contract talks with CCTA, St. Hilaire told drivers that if they were frustrated, they should signal to him and they would all walk away from the table together.

Slingerland describes his commitment to his fellow drivers: “Somebody had to give me this gut feeling, now I’ve got to give it to somebody. As long as you keep it so you’re getting one person at a time, you’re still moving forward. When a [contract] campaign does come around, people will come to you, because you’ve been there all along.”
CCTA’s ‘Toxic Environment’

Walker, a 20-year bus driver and steward, has been fired three times for his organizing, and reinstated. He described a climate of fear and retaliatory firings.

For instance, he saw “a 30-year employee get let out the door because she got ill, it took longer for her to heal than it was supposed to, and CCTA just said, ‘see you later,’” Walker said.

The best defense against such treatment is “people exercising their rights as a union” and the community practicing solidarity, said Walker, speaking on a student-organized panel at St. Michael’s College about uniting local labor struggles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that driver fatigue is a leading cause of accidents, resulting in 100,000 crashes, 1,550 deaths, and 71,000 injuries annually. When such crashes are the result of employers’ practices, those employers may be saving money by refusing to hire a full staff and then mandating overtime—and shifting the cost onto the rest of society. The agency tallies the annual cost of these fatalities, injuries, reduced productivity, and property loss at $12.5 billion.

"Right now we have a bill in the Senate about distracted driving in cars," said Senator Lyons. "Nothing could be more distracting than… to be tired on the job or be completely deadened and having to continue driving for such a long time. We work hard to ensure we have safe workplaces, and this doesn’t sound like it is one.”
‘A Rock-Solid Community’

Recently the drivers’ union has been coming together with a coalition of other unions and concerned bus riders at the Vermont Workers’ Center. After providing solidarity for St Michael’s College janitors, the group now counts those janitors among its leaders.

“The CCTA drivers have helped the custodians’ union at Saint Mike's from the beginning,” said custodian Graham Lebel. “When two of our organizers got fired, CCTA drivers were there. We plan to fully support them in their effort to get a fair contract.” The groups have been at each other’s rallies, strategy meetings, and public statements.

Nurse Cory Mallon, a Workers’ Center leader, was one of many union activists who attended the bus terminal speak-out. Mallon described the connections between public health and public transport. “As our social support systems come increasingly under attack, public servants like drivers and front-line health care workers absorb much of the impact,” he said.

A similar community solidarity coalition helped nurses win their union in 2002, pass Act 48 establishing a path to single-payer health care in 2010, and prevent the privatization of a regional hospital’s dialysis unit in 2011.

Slingerland said mechanics, who are also members of Local 597 but in a separate bargaining unit, have gotten strike benefits approved by their union leadership, “so they don’t have to cross our picket lines.”

“I look at the different unions, all the different unions, as a single entity,” said Slingerland. “You get everybody in each union shop together in the same way, and that’s a rock-solid community. The more you have that, the sooner the man doesn’t have all five fingers on the hammer and people start getting what they deserve.”