Bus Drivers’ Union Renews Calls to Reinstate Fired Leaders, Veolia Maintains Terminations Justified
BOSTON/South Boston – Members and supporters of the Boston Public Schools’ bus drivers’ union, United Steelworkers Local 8751 rallied Saturday at the Freeport bus yard in South Boston.
The union is continuing with its call on Veolia Transportation to reinstate four of the union’s leaders after they were terminated last year.
Around 400 people joined the rally in Dorchester, a smaller turnout than the bus drivers’ first demonstration last November.
The union officials were fired after school bus services were severely disrupted on October 8, leaving thousands of children across Boston stranded, unable to get to school.
Operator of the bus services, Veolia Transportation, claims that the union leaders instigated a strike on the day in question – something forbidden by the bargaining agreement between the union and the company – which lead to the union leaders Steve Kirschbaum, Garry Murchison, Steve Gillis, and Andre Francois losing their jobs.
Open Media Boston previously reported on a public hearing of Boston City Council called by Councilor Charles Yancey where the union leaders claimed they were never on strike, that they were instead locked-out by Veolia Transportation management.
The drivers claim that they tried to have a discussion with management on the morning of October 8 in regard to a large number of grievances filed by the union against management practices, and what amounted to provocation by the company.
Speaking at the rally in support of the fired union leaders, Rich Rogers of the Greater Boston Labor Council said, “I’m here today to speak out against injustice. less than a year Veolia has had this contract, and labor relations have gone down the drain with the school bus drivers. It’s an absolute disgrace. They have an obligation to respect the union contract; the city’s paying for this contract; it’s wrong. We will be with this union until this is straightened out, these guys get a chance to get their jobs back, because that’s what the labor movement’s all about, standing for workers, and standing with our unions. We are with you all the way.”
Though not speaking at the rally himself, Rogers also asserted that the President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, Steve Tolman has got the union’s back “100 per cent.”
In a press statement to Open Media Boston, Veolia Transportation spokesperson Valerie Michael said, “Today's rally does not legitimatize the illegal strike of bus operators of Boston Public Schools on October 8th, 2013. This strike violated a core provision of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between Veolia Transportation and the United Steelworkers' Union, which specifically prevents work stoppages and strikes, and provides grounds for termination of employees who lead and instigate strikes. The arbitration process over the firing of four union members for their roles in instigating the strike is proceeding as provided for under the collective bargaining agreement with USW 8751. In the meantime, claims of company refusals to meet and a lockout of employees as after-the-fact justifications for the work stoppage are as false today as when they were first made by the radical element of USW 8751 in the days following the illegal strike. As time goes by, neither the facts surrounding October 8th nor the reasons justifying the termination of these four employees, change."
Open Media Boston contacted both the USW international and the Boston City mayor’s office for a press statement, but did not receive a response before the filing of this report.
Though a date has not been announced, Charles Yancey’s council hearing was never adjourned – put into recess instead – and is expected to continue.