Bus drivers fight for their jobs

January 26, 2010

BERKELEY, Calif.--January 20 was the second day of operation for MV Transportation, the newly contracted non-union bus service at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL), which is affiliated with the University of California (UC). It was also the second day that the union drivers who had driven LBNL buses for over 30 years, without one injury, would not be driving for LBNL.

The bus drivers' union, AFSCME Local 3299, marked the occasion by commandeering one of the scab buses at a busy Berkeley campus bus stop. Some 100 union members and another 100 of their supporters surrounded the bus while one of the union's bus drivers explained to the scab driver that she needed to get off the bus and tell her supervisor that AFSCME had taken over and the bus would not be rolling.

As longtime union bus driver Kat Bedford explained, "You took over my job, so now I'm taking over your bus." The one passenger on the bus enthusiastically expressed her support for the union and got off the bus as well. As the crowd chanted "Hey hey! Ho ho! Union-busting has got to go!" 14 people remained in the street and got arrested.

LBNL's director said the reason for contracting out bus services wasn't financial but was because he didn't want to manage the service anymore. The bus company he contracted with has a horrible track record on safety. Now UC-Berkeley management is looking at contracting out the campus bus service by March 1--due to financial reasons, it says.

This is straight-up union-busting and part of UC management's broader push to privatize the university and shut the door on ordinary Californians. While unionists were getting arrested on January 20, UC's Board of Regents met to approve $3.1 million in bonuses for just 38 UC executives.

The price of the bid for the campus bus service is just $1 million. UC doesn't have a budget crisis--it has a crisis of priorities and leadership. AFSCME members will keep fighting to win LBNL bus drivers' jobs back and stop the contracting-out on the campus, and we won't stop until we win.

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