By Brenda Ryan - Workers World, May 4, 2015
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.
In a stunning victory, the militant, fighting rank and file of the Boston school bus drivers’ union, United Steelworkers Local 8751, voted in the full slate of Team Solidarity candidates, led by four illegally fired leaders, on the union’s Executive Board.
The April 30 election was the largest voter turnout in the history of the local and resulted in an unprecedented landslide vote by more than 3 to 1 for the Team Solidarity ticket. The membership sent a clear message to Veolia/Transdev, the union-busting school bus management company, as well as to Boston Public Schools and Mayor Marty Walsh, that they will fight and win a just contract and the rehiring of their leaders. They will also unite with the communities they serve to struggle for Equal Quality Education.
The new executive board-elect of the 850-strong union, whose members are largely Haitian, Cape Verdean and African-American, includes President Andre Francois, long-time chief steward; Vice President Stevan Kirschbaum, a founder of the local; Treasurer Georgia Scott, veteran of the 1965 Civil Rights battle on Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.; Financial Secretary Steven Gillis, the outgoing vice president and benefits administrator; Recording Secretary Claude “Tou Tou” St. Germain, a Fanmi Lavalas activist; Grievance Committee members Garry Murchison, a three-term past president, Frantz Mendes, two-term president, and Richard Laine; Trustees Frantz “Fan Fan” Cadet, Fred Floreal and Judy Long; Guide Chantal Suffrant Casimir; Guards Adriano Barbosa and Ludnay Pierre; and Accident Review Committee members Jerome Samir Stanley, Kathy Moore and Robert Salley. Murchison led the local’s last five-week strike in 1991, which ended with a 48-hour occupation of the mayor’s office.
Veolia illegally fired Francois, Gillis, Kirschbaum and Murchison in November 2013, following a company-ordered, police department-enforced lockout on Oct. 8, 2013, which occurred after the local requested an emergency meeting. The lockout occurred in the midst of a three-month fight with the new company over wage theft, its refusal to honor the drivers’ long-standing contract and Veolia’s illegal demand — because it’s in violation of the contract — made the day before, that even 40-year veteran drivers must file new hire applications.
A small clique of business-minded, company-inspired opponents, including the current president — who bowed out during the election campaign — tried to turn the membership against Team Solidarity’s fighting slate. They bombarded members with the message: “Don’t vote for the people who were fired. They won’t do you any good.”
The climax of year-long bargaining over a new concessionary contract was the company’s divisive campaign that included pushing a “final” proposal with no amnesty for the fired leaders and using false “retro-pay” payroll documents produced by management. But the members voted for the new board based on their personal experience with Team Solidarity’s leaders, who have filed hundreds of their grievances, administered and defended their benefits, and fiercely fought for them and the union’s survival during the nearly two years since Veolia and the mayor’s office began their union-busting assault.