Boston School Bus Union Five Acquitted

BY ON MARCH 6, 2015



In 10 Minutes, Jury Returns Not-Guilty Verdict

Commonwealth’s Case Exposed

as a Fraudulent Anti-Union Frame-Up


The campaign to rehire four Boston school bus drivers, illegally fired by the union-busting Veolia Corporation, got a shot in the arm on Thursday when a jury took only ten minutes to acquit union leader Steve Kirschbaum of all charges brought by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The ten-minute verdict was the result of an eight-month peoples’ mobilization that included six pack-the-court rallies; national call-in days to both the district attorney and the mayor; and weekly busyard rallies organized by the local. Peoples’ lawyers Barry Wilson and John Pavlos skillfully and passionately tore the frame-up apart and successfully turned the tables, putting the union-busters on trial.

School bus drivers and community supporters of the union packed the court for three days, transforming the inside of the courthouse into a de facto union hall. During lunch breaks the drivers held militant picket lines outside the building, with placards saying “Drop the Charges” and “No Contract, No Work”!

Dorchester District Courthouse became ground zero for the political movement, as Brock Satter with the Mass Mobilization Against Police Violence, as well as Sandra Macintosh of the Coalition for Equal Quality Education and former City Councilmember Chuck Turner all showed up to support the union. City Councilmember Charles Yancey gave updates to the overflow crowd outside the courtroom, and for two of the three trial days, I-93 protester Tsung attended.

Herculano Fecteau of the Boston Teachers Union showed up, as did Tony Van Der Meer of the Africana Studies Department at UMass. The verdict was a victory not only for this political, social union  – which not only fights for its members but marches with the Black Lives Matter movement, resolutely defends LGBTQ rights and marches for Palestine – but a victory for the movement as well.

And it was a defeat for the union-busters, Boston’s 1%, and the city’s entrenched racist forces who want to re-segregate public education.

From the moment the four bogus charges were filed against Kirschbaum in July 2014, it was clear that they were part of the union-busting campaign being waged against the local – a campaign that included the November 2013 firing of Kirschbaum as well as three other union leaders.

When a June 30, 2014 rally of hundreds of school bus drivers – held to demand the rehiring of the four — ended with an indoor rally in the drivers’ breakroom, Veolia managers provided false statements to the Commonwealth to make it look like they had been attacked by Kirschbaum and that the premises had been violently entered.

The charges were totally made-up but serious: three were felonies, initially including breaking and entering to commit a felony; malicious destruction of property; assault and battery with a dangerous weapon; and trespassing.

The evidence was so obviously manufactured that in October the first two charges were dismissed by the judge. On Thursday, a working class jury of six – including two union members — “dismissed” the remaining two charges with a not-guilty verdict in record time.

In fact, it was Veolia and its co-conspirators who were put on trial as witness testimony and Kirschbaum’s legal team showed that the events in question had everything to do with the fact that the contract was expiring that day at midnight – and that, in violation of the contract, Veolia had attempted to prevent the union from holding a meeting.

In October 2013, the notorious union-busting company fired four of the union leaders – including Grievance Chair Kirschbaum, Recording Secretary Andre Francois, Steward Garry Murchison and Vice President Steve Gillis – after locking out the workers and falsely claiming that the union had conducted a “wildcat strike.”

The not-guilty verdict — which has so thoroughly discredited the version of events put forward by Veolia managers — can only help the campaign to rehire the four. Those in the Boston establishment who were holding their breath over this trial and hoping to see one of the union’s leaders convicted are now facing a renewed, fighting union that is not afraid to take things to the next level.

Those who know this local also know that its members intend to fight not only to rehire the four but to deepen the Black Lives Matter movement and the struggle against racism; stop the school closings announced by Mayor Walsh; defend public school transportation by keeping middle school students off the subway and on school buses; and defend the righteous I-93 protesters and their First Amendment rights.

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