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Vol. 78/No. 36      October 13, 2014

On the Picket Line
This week’s “On the Picket Line” column features Boston school bus drivers framed up for a job action; New Jersey nursing home workers fighting for a contract, some of whom have been locked out; and solidarity actions in Australia with fighting garment workers in Cambodia, some of whom have been framed up. Another piece on page 4 reports on the United Steelworkers defense of rail workers framed up for deaths that resulted from the bosses’ profit drive. The challenges some of these battles confront help demonstrate how capitalist governments — their cops, courts and prisons — represent the political rule of the employers and why each strike is not only an economic struggle, but at its heart part of the political struggle between capital and labor.

— Maggie Trowe

Rally opposes frame-up of Boston school bus driver
BOSTON — School bus drivers and their supporters packed a pretrial hearing at the Dorchester District Court here Sept. 15 for framed-up union officer Steve Kirschbaum. Afterward 100 rallied on the courthouse steps.

Kirschbaum is grievance chairperson of United Steelworkers Local 8751, which organizes some 700 Boston school bus drivers who transport 30,000 children to school.

Charges were brought against Kirschbaum June 30, the last day of the bus drivers’ contract with Veolia Bus Company, now called Transdev.

That day 200 members of the local rallied outside company headquarters, then entered the drivers’ room inside the building that their contract guarantees access to for union activity. Management claimed workers were trespassing on company property.

According to the company’s account, a table was pushed into Angela Griffin, Transdev’s assistant terminal manager. Kirschbaum was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (a table), trespassing, breaking and entering to commit a felony, and malicious destruction of property.

In October 2013, four local union officers, including Kirschbaum and Andre Francois, were fired for instigating an “illegal strike” when bosses locked them out for one day after refusing to meet to discuss union grievances over contract violations.

“It is a 21st century version of what has been going on since Joe Hill. It is a trade union frame-up,” Kirschbaum told the Militant after the rally.

Following the hearing, Francois led those on the steps of the courthouse in the chant, “Transdevil you should know, union busting has got to go.”

“The courts are being used by the company to gain leverage in a labor dispute. The charges should be dismissed,” Kirschbaum’s lawyer, Barry Wilson, said during the hearing.

Samir Stanley, 60, a bus driver for 32 years, urged rally participants to turn out for Kirschbaum’s next court date. “I know the charges are a frame-up. I was there,” he said.

— Ted Leonard

NJ nursing home workers strike 3 days over pay, respect
UNION CITY, New Jersey — “With the way they treat us, you’d be a fool not to come out and fight,” Tashea Sangare said at a rally here Sept. 17 to support a three-day strike of 450 workers at four Alaris Health nursing homes in New Jersey. The nursing aides, kitchen staff and housekeeping attendants, members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, have been working without a contract for more than five months. Several hundred workers from all four nursing homes attended the spirited rally, along with other workers from the area.

Sangare, a certified nursing assistant at the Castle Hill facility in Union City, said the company uses threats to intimidate workers from participating in union activity. “We did a three-day strike five years ago,” she said. “When we tried to go back they locked some of us out.”

Workers danced around a block-long picket line to live music performed by the group “To the limit.”

“We play for the residents in the nursing homes and got to know the workers and the union,” said singer Linda Curtis. “When we heard they were going out, we volunteered to come today.”

Following the rally, workers went back to picket at each facility.

“This is my first strike,” said Dante Brown, 22, a nursing assistant at Alaris’ Harborview facility in Jersey City. “They’re offering us a 7 cents raise over five years!” Brown said the company offers a higher wage for those who forego sick pay, vacation pay and health insurance. “A lot of us take it because we don’t get enough to live on.”

“We need better pay, better working conditions, and better medical insurance, but most of all we are fighting for respect,” said striker Roselyn Gibbs, who works at the Alaris nursing home in Castle Hill.

“Without a strike, the company wouldn’t give us anything,” said Harvé Casseus, a four-year veteran at the Rochelle Park facility.

When the striking workers returned to work, bosses locked out some two dozen. The union is planning a rally Sept. 30 to protest the lockout.

— Sara Lobman

Rally in Australia supports Cambodia garment workers
SYDNEY— A protest in solidarity with fighting garment workers was held outside a busy shopping mall here Sept. 17. Other actions also took place in Canberra and Melbourne, the same day thousands of workers rallied outside garment factories in Cambodia demanding an increase in the minimum wage. (See article on page 6.)

Joyce Fu, who organized the lunchtime solidarity action, said garment workers in Cambodia are now demanding their base wage be increased from $100 to $177 per month.

Fu called out to people passing through to “join us to demand justice for Cambodian workers!”

Linda Harris

Related articles:
Canada rail car workers: Bosses failed to divide us
Strike pushes back Bombardier’s two-tier plan
Cambodian garment workers renew wage fight
Union fights frame-up of Lac-Mégantic rail workers
‘Militant’ names On the Picket Line editor
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