The West Coast Educators Rank-and-File Safety Committees, comprised of educators and parents across California, Oregon and Washington, call for the immediate reinstatement of London bus driver David O’Sullivan and condemn his politically motivated firing.
The 57-year-old bus driver was terminated from his job last February after highlighting unsafe conditions that he and his fellow bus drivers endured while driving for the Cricklewood bus garage. O’Sullivan had also exercised his legal right to refuse dangerous work and called on his fellow bus drivers to do the same.
Our support for O’Sullivan joins those of a growing number of rank-and-file committees of workers across the US, the UK and internationally calling for his defense.
While UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his cabinet suffer no punishment whatsoever for their disastrous herd immunity policies and their calls to “let the bodies pile high by the thousands,” O’Sullivan has been punished precisely for raising issues that could help save workers’ lives and refusing to make himself and his fellow workers the targets of the ruling class’ campaign of mass suffering and death. His case sharply demonstrates the vast and unbridgeable gulf between the social interests of the working class and the capitalist elite.
O’Sullivan not only had to confront Metroline, a private bus operator, after he exercised his legal right to refuse dangerous work. He also faced the Unite trade union, which ended up submitting evidence against him to assist in the company’s disciplinary hearing finalizing his termination.
The West Coast Educators Rank-and-File Safety Committees are particularly sensitive to O’Sullivan’s plight as school bus drivers in particular have lost their lives to COVID-19 at an alarming rate. Packed into enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces with children who, when infected, carry viral loads often several times higher than that of adults, school bus drivers are particularly susceptible to infections and hospitalizations from COVID-19.
School children are now being forced back into classrooms among teachers and support staff, with infection prevention measures ranging from insufficient to nonexistent. Should teachers oppose these measures, like O’Sullivan, they will face job termination, loss of credentials or worse. Moreover, the unions in the US, led by American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, have been the most consistent cheerleaders of the murderous back-to-school drive and will happily assume the role of workplace police at the behest of the Biden administration.
Throughout the pandemic, teachers and staff have been forced to work under life-threatening circumstances. This is because the financial and political elite want schools to remain open to serve as daycare centers for parents to return to unsafe factories, offices and other workplaces in order for big business to generate profits.
The ruling elite is well aware that the death of more than 4 million people from coronavirus worldwide cannot go unanswered for much longer. This is precisely what lies behind the desperate and reckless campaign to blame the coronavirus on a lab leak in Wuhan, China. Moreover, those who reveal the activities of the actual perpetrators who consciously downplayed the virus’ danger and let it rip through the population—like O’Sullivan and Florida whistleblower Rebekah Jones—are hounded and persecuted.
Whenever educators fought against unsafe conditions in schools, the unions promised that they would fight alongside them, only to approve school reopening arrangements with districts behind the teachers’ backs. This has been a major factor behind the spread of the pandemic throughout the past year, which has produced mass deaths and tens of millions of infections. Now children themselves, who are largely unvaccinated, are more susceptible to new variants of the virus.
We know that even if the political establishment wants to be done with the coronavirus, the coronavirus isn’t done with us. In the coming weeks and months, we will do everything in our power to highlight the dangerous conditions within our schools and communities. A key component of this will be the international campaign publicizing David O’Sullivan’s case and the building of independent rank-and-file committees of educators and other sections of the working class, demanding his reinstatement along with safe working conditions for all.