Each week, we’ll share a post getting to know a member of the Guild community. This week, we’re excited to learn about Claude “Tou Tou” St. Germain, Recording Secretary of Boston School Bus Drivers- USW Local 8751, and a longtime Guild school student.
“When you create division within an organization, you create space for the opposition to get in and destroy it. Dialogue is the biggest weapon.” – Claude St. Germain
Claude “Tou Tou” St. Germain is the Recording Secretary of Boston School Bus Drivers- USW Local 8751 and a longtime Guild School student. He was part of the massive organizing campaign and victory of the Bus Drivers against Veolia/Transdev’s firing of four workers and attempts at union busting. He has been attending Guild classes since 2003, just one year after he began his job as a bus driver.
Claude became a member of USW Local 8751 when he began his job in October of 2002. Because all bus drivers are automatically added to the union, Claude was eager to get involved. During his first months on the job, he knew he wanted to learn more. A friend showed him the Labor Guild’s brochure, and he has been coming to classes ever since. “I was so anxious at that time to get everything in place to start talking about the union,” he said.
Claude has taken a wide range of classes—from Negotiations, to the Role of the Steward, and more—and has enjoyed all of them, for the range of environments they provide and skills they teach. According to Claude, “Knowledge is important. It helps you get confidence so you can have a good position in the union […] When you are in class, you get involved.”
Indeed, Claude has been highly engaged in his union, holding a number of positions and seeing it through both difficult times and victories. Since he began, Claude has held the position of steward, trustee, and now recording secretary. One of the many successes Claude has helped win for his union is the Retirement with Dignity component of the contract, which ensures that bus drivers have a strong retirement plan.
Claude was deeply involved in the historic fight against Veolia/Transdev, which began when they fired four of the drivers in late 2013. Claude says that the worst thing he’s seen on his job has been these four workers getting fired. From the day that occurred, union members including Claude escalated organizing and the struggle to win their jobs back. Bus drivers picketed every single day after work for 26 months, chipped in to support those who had been fired, and launched huge internal campaigns to get the four drivers elected to positions within the union. It was when they won these elections that they were able to return to work and secure their rights and contracts. The Bus Drivers have written a book about their historic fight, and have gone on a four-state speaking tour. Claude participated in that tour and continues to travel, sharing the story and insights from their fight and the fights of their sisters and brothers in unions throughout Boston.
For Claude, being part of a union like the Bus Drivers means gaining new knowledge and taking pride in its history of solidarity, struggle, and victory. As he says, “I always want to test everything to see what’s going on. If you have the opportunity, you seize it.” The Guild is lucky to learn from a longtime student and organizer like Claude!