In late October over 600 school bus drivers in Boston took wildcat action, angry at the complete ineffectiveness of their trade union (USW), at the union-busting city administration, and the management style of Veolia, the private company now running the buses.
Following an unsuccessful attempt at gaining an injunction, the mayor arranged a city wide scabbing operation by the police. The predictable purge and victimisation by bosses and union bureaucrats has now begun.
The dispute has been brought to a head due to the knock on effect of the government shutdown. A dispute had been lodged with the National Labour Relations Board, but as they have not been working the dispute has not been looked at yet. The drivers decide to take matters into their own hands.
A handful of scabs entered the yard and tried to board their buses. As pickets tried to prevent them, police and USC bureaucrats intervened and enabled them to drive the buses out. A shouting match between pickets and bureaucrats ensued outside each of the four depots.
Drivers are furious that their pay is rarely ever paid correctly and can be as much as 40% down, which then takes two months to rectify (affects hundreds of drivers a week).
Veolia acknowledge that there are problems but blame the drivers for not submitting their hours in the correct manner. Other issues is the bullying by Veolia management, and the use of a GPS tracking system that was intended to be used by parents to see where their children are, but is now being used by Veolia as a management tool to bully drivers.
Mayor Thomas Menino has stated that the action is ‘illegal’ under the terms of their contracts and that their behaviour will have ‘consequences’. His comments have been echoed by the USW bureaucrats. One of Melino’s advisors has gone on record to say that the participants in the strike are all ‘immigrants’ who really do not understand the issues, and have been ‘hoodwinked’ and ‘tricked’ into taking part.
The court injunction was not granted as the sitting judge agreed with the USC that the strike was the work of one ‘rogue employee’ – Steven Kirschbaum. Kirschbaum and one other person have been suspended, and a further seven workers are ‘under investigation’.
As the issues that led to the walkout have not been resolved, and now participants are being bullied, it is likely that further actions are on the horizon. The drivers have submitted 16 demands to the bosses. They include, resolving the pay issues, scrapping the GPS system, proper breaks and restrooms, fair benefits, withdrawal of the Veolia employee handbook, and a halt of any action against employees resulting from the wildcat action.