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Vol. 77/No. 43      December 2, 2013

On the Picket Line

Boston school bus drivers protest firings of union leaders

BOSTON — More than 250 bus drivers and their supporters marched and rallied here Nov. 9 to protest the firing of four leaders of their union, United Steelworkers Local 8751, for their involvement in a job action on the morning of Oct. 8. Drivers refused to work until Veolia Transportation management would discuss their grievances over “chronic payroll shortages, overcrowded and badly timed routes,” and “a general refusal to abide by the terms and conditions of the contract,” said a United Steelworkers flyer.

Instead of meeting, the union says, Veolia Transportation officials initiated a lockout at 11 a.m. that day, shutting down bus service for 30,000 Boston public school students. Bosses also fired four union officers — Grievance Committee Chairperson Stevan Kirschbaum, Vice President Steve Gillis, Recording Secretary Andre Francois and steward and former Local President Garry Murchison. Driver Richard Lynch was temporarily suspended, and the company sent a letter of reprimand to hundreds of drivers who did not report to the dispatch window Oct. 8.

“They’re out to bust the union,” Murchison told the Militant, noting that contract negotiations begin next year.

“You were with us in our fight with Verizon, so we are here to let you know we are with you,” Julio Delacruz, a shop steward in International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2222, told the rally in front of the company’s offices.

About 30 members of Amalgamated Transportation Union Local 1181 came to the rally from New York. “We went through the same thing,” Local 1181 member Maria Gentile, told the rally, referring to a one-month strike by bus drivers and matrons in New York at the beginning of the year. Bus drivers from Brockton, Mass., also participated in the rally.

“We had to make the company hear us,” bus driver Peter Lopes told the Militant at the Nov. 9 rally.

— Ted Leonard

ILWU protests lockout by grain shippers at two Northwest ports

VANCOUVER, Wash. — More than 200 members and supporters of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union demonstrated Nov. 4 at Esther Short Park against ongoing lockouts. ILWU Local 4 here has been locked out by United Grain Corporation since February and Local 8 in Portland, Ore., by Columbia Grain Corporation since May.

Other unions represented at the rally included members of ILWU Local 21 from Longview, Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers, Portland Association of Educators, International Union of Painters and the Inlandboatmen’s Union, a division of the ILWU.

In September, the Clark County prosecutor decided not to file charges against Todd Walker a member of ILWU Local 4 who was accused of sabotaging the United Grain facility here in December 2012.

Negotiations between the ILWU and the grain companies have resumed, though neither side is giving any details on the talks.

ILWU members have gone to eastern Washington and Montana to talk to grain farmers about the dispute, according to the Capital Press.

In another development, a federal judge found the ILWU in civil contempt of court for ignoring an order to stop waterborne picketing at grain barges along the Columbia River, according to the Journal of Commerce.

— Edwin Fruit

Quebec bookstore workers strike for guaranteed work hours

MONTREAL — More than 250 workers at 11 of Renaud-Bray’s 31 bookstores across Quebec went on strike Nov. 2 to demand higher wages, a guaranteed minimum of 24 hours work a week, and greater say in work schedules. The company has the largest network of French-language bookstores in North America.

The strikers, members of the Office and Professional Employees Union, have been without a contract since Dec. 31 last year.

Renaud-Bray wants part-time workers to be “on-call,” creating competition among employees for available work.

On the picket line at the chain’s Fleury Road bookstore Nov. 9, a young worker told the Militant that at times she hasn’t been called into work for a week and then asked to work 35 hours the following week.

University of Montreal students joined the Cote des Neiges store picket line Nov. 4. A flyer strikers distributed to passersby states that workers start out at Can$10.39 an hour and top out at Can$12.78 after eight years (Can$1=US95 cents). The legal minimum in Quebec is Can$10.15. Workers are demanding a 3 percent raise.

Renaud-Bray said the company offers “working conditions higher than the market,” according to CBC News.

— Felix Vincent Ardea and Annette Kouri

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Bangladesh garment workers fight for higher wages, safety
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