On Monday, March 5th, TEN leaders, organizers, and supporters from across the United States held a protest against transit privatization outside the headquarters of Veolia Transportation.
Today one hundred faith leaders, along with labor activists and public transit advocates, secured a meeting with Veolia Transportation CEO Mark Joseph after storming the offices in Silver Spring, MD to symbolically deliver an invoice for $1.1 billion to reimburse communities for lost wages, tax revenue, and service quality. “This issue is critically important to our communities and the economy,” said Rev. James Hunt from Chicago, IL. “Veolia makes a profit by cutting wages, services, and benefits; they don’t have any interest in our communities, other than profit.”
Veolia Transportation is one of the biggest for-profit entities involved in the privatization of municipal bus and light rail services, as well as other previously public services, including sewage and water. “We’re here to demand our money back,” said Irma Wallace of Springfield, IL, “These private companies siphon profits out of our public services and we’re sick and tired of our municipal services being managed for private profit instead of public good.”
Organized by TEN, activists delivered the invoice and then gathered outside to give testimonies, pray, chant, and sing. Activists highlighted the impact of privatization, including increasing costs and decreasing wages, and expressed outrage over the lobbying conducted by companies such as Veolia. “They lobby Congress to de-fund transit so that our communities are forced to turn to their private capital in order to keep our services operating,” said Mahasin Abdul-Salaam from Oakland, CA, “Then they come in and buy up our public services for their own profit.”
Immediately after the event, Veolia Transportation CEO, Mark Joseph, called TEN and agreed to meet with the activists about their concerns. “I talked to him about the rumored sale of Veolia’s transit assets,” said Ebony Thorpe of Battle Creek, MI, who spoke with Joseph on the phone immediately after the protest. “This potential sale is a great example of our problem with privatization: our public services can change hands from corporation to corporation without any public accountability or transparency.”
The activists were sent off to the protest by Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-MO), who spoke out about the issue of privatization. “Privatization increases costs and hurts workers,” Carnahan said as the group departed for the protest, “while eliminating any transparency for communities.”