Stop

Veolia
Seattle
Zine Project

“Solidarity is not an act of charity but an act of unity between allies fighting on
different terrains towards the same objectives.” –Samora machel
This Zine is a collection of texts and images, a compiling of research and conversations, writings and
imagined futures with the defining and redefining of solidarity at its center. It is also a biography—if,
as we are told, corporations are people too—of French-based multinational corporation, Veolia.
Stop Veolia Seattle (SVS) is humbled to be stepping into a conversation with a much more
established movement targeting Veolia, and a much longer history of resistance to inequality in
the form of neoliberal corporatization and older forms of colonialism, imperialism, militarism,
apartheid, and occupation. This Zine is one way to write and draw our evolving understanding of
how our work in Seattle is part of a larger, longer conversation.
When we began SVS we asked: How can a campaign targeting Veolia help us and others ask
larger questions about solidarity organizing and the roots of our current struggles? How does
Veolia’s particular history and affiliations help us build or reinforce an understanding, an
analysis, that allows us to work across many different communities of resistance in mutually
generative ways?
We understand Veolia as a microcosm for tracing the intersections of our struggles locally and
globally, for the potential and the need for solidarity and for what that community of joint-struggle
might look like. Veolia also provides a case study for mapping other genealogies and continuities.
Veolia, a company that can be traced back to Napoleon, helps us to trace the roots of today’s
neoliberalism in earlier manifestations of Western imperialism and exploitation.

2

Stop Veolia Seattle

stopveoliaseattle.wordpress.com

We hope this Zine reads both as a timeline for the evolution of systems of exploitation and as
a non-linear mapping of potential and real solidarities, for articulating and hopefully building
historically rooted forms of resistance.

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art by maia brown

About SVS and Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions
Stop Veolia Seattle is a coalition of groups and community members from the disability justice
community, the labor community, Palestine Solidarity, anti-corporatization and environmental
movements, among others, who have come together to form a working group to get Veolia out
of King County and to bring the Access paratransit service in-house with good labor practices and
benefits for workers and respectful, caring, timely, affordable service for folks with disabilities
and the elderly. We are urging King County, not to continue their contract with Veolia first and
foremost because our community deserves better. We stand rooted in solidarity with Palestinians,
global workers and global water and transportation users who are impacted by Veolia’s reckless
and criminal practices that violate workers rights and human rights, including the right to water,
the right to self-determination and freedom of movement.
Responding to the Palestinian Civil Society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel
(BDS), we support the nonviolent methods of BDS until Israel meets its obligation to the Palestinian
people and international law by:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their
homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
We are lucky to be doing this work in the context of great momentum--there are things to
celebrate! BDS affiliated campaigns have ended contracts or prevented contracts with Veolia
in the USA, UK, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Iran, & Spain; and
water justice advocates have also ended contracts with Veolia around the world including in India
and Veolia’s native France.
SVS members understand the struggle for Palestinian equal rights as intimately tied to global
struggles for economic, social, and cultural justice, including the struggles of other indigenous
peoples around the world and at home, and the structural race and class inequality we face in our
local communities.
For us, Veolia is a compelling example of how BDS as a strategy and a lens allows us to map these
global intersections—BDS is beginning to give us a new way to think and talk about how Palestine
solidarity work is entangled in our social justice struggles locally and with those in the rest of the
Global South.
BDS must lead us back to a very old question: If we define Solidarity as acting out of the knowledge
that our own liberation is tied up in the liberation of others, and that the oppressed must lead
the struggle, how do we practice working together in ways that are reparative and restructure
how we share power and resources? How do we build global solidarities that don’t mean ignoring
what happens in our own communities, that don’t sap our energies away from the
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resistance movements of our neighborhoods, but make us all stronger?
see also p. 99

A History of Veolia
page 6

What’s inside?

imperialism & genealogies of neoliberal privatization,
by maia brown

History and
policy analysis is not
everyone’s thing, jump
to p. 79 for Seattle
testimonies.

Corporatization
page 18

page 21
page 27

page 30

despite veolia’s political interference, communities around the world protect human
right to water, by katherine sawyer
the corporate stranglehold over the united nations, by richard gerard
veolia & transportation: thinking about corporatization & freedom of movement,
by maia brown
why governments are on the hook to ensure clean, safe water for everyone,
by maude barlow

remunicipipalization
page 34
page 37

the rising water in bolivia and latin america, by marcela olivera
turning the tides: new approaches and alternatives, by mary ann manahan

veolia around the world
page 42
page 47
page 48
page 49
page 56

asia-pacific: a primer (5 reasons why you should challenge veolia), by mary ann manahan
india: veolia favors profits and abuse over right to water, by friends of earth france
South durban, south africa: activists occupy veolia plant, by sarah khan
privatization’s human cost: the crisis of bus drivers in santiago, by anson stewart
boston school bus drivers vs. veolia, by linda averill

page 60
page 62
page 64

People’s water board statement on creation of regional water authority
detroit’s water: behind the bankruptcy crisis, by khaled a beydoun
moving beyond solidarity, by tawana petty

page 68
page 70
page 72
page 74
page 77

BDS marks another victory as Veolia sells off all Israeli operations
letter to the united nations, by richard falk
overview of current activities in europe, by adri nieuwhof
veolia & it’s history of contract losses
resistance from within: veolia employee stops cutting off the water,

page 80
page 84
page 89
page 90
page 92
page 94
page 96
page 98
page 99

dorian taylor on access and solidarity in our movements
pressure mounts on executive constantine to take action on veolia, by susan koppelman
stop veolia seattle call to king county council
transit riders union and bayan-nw solidarity letters
solid ground, access driver & member of atu local 587 on veolia
hearing from access users, by lonnie nelson
interview with jacqueline sorgen
mlk county labor council resolution against veolia
5
veolia/transdev attempts to divide our coalition

detroit
palestine

seattle

a history of veolia

imperialism & genealogies of neoliberal privatization
The history of Veolia, under its many names and
subsidiaries, takes us back over a century and across
continents. From Compagnie Générale des Eaux
(CGE) to Vivendi, and later, Veolia, the French-based
multinational and its subsidiaries hold contracts on
five continents, specializing not only in water and
sanitation, but trash, transportation, and energy.
Veolia is one of the largest privatizers of public services
globally and the world’s largest privatizer of water
in particular.1

If, we are told, corporations are people too; this
is an unofficial biography of Veolia. It is a history
of the evolving ideologies and global powers that
facilitated Veolia’s early expansion and a more
recent map of its corporate shapeshifting. We
begin in France.

ORIGIN STORIES: Veolia & Empire

“Our history is entwined with that of towns and cities.”
–Veolia.com
France, December 14, 1853: Compagnie Générale
des Eaux (CGE)—the General Water Company, the
first of Veolia’s many names—was born by imperial
decree from Napoleon III. CGE’s first contract was
to supply water to the public of Lyons for one

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WRITTEN BY maia brown
hundred years. The company grew quickly and in
1861, CGE was awarded a 50-year concession for
water distribution in the city of Paris.
Veolia’s beginnings are rooted in Napoleonic
history. Just over a year before CGE’s founding
Napoleon III had declared himself Emperor of
France in a coup d’etat. Unable
to serve a second term
as president under the
new constitution, and
unable to gain support
for a constitutional
amendment,
he
took power by force,
becoming the leader
of France’s Second
Empire. A year after CGE’s
founding, Napoleon III
was embroiled in the
Crimean War.
With both authoritarian
and
liberal-reformist
tendencies, domestically,
Napoleon III is
known for his
massive public
works projects,
which
define
the
modern
urban-scape of
France today. He
is also remembered
for severe restriction of
civil liberties, censorship laws, and

1: Food and Water Watch. “Privatization Threatens St. Louis’ Water: Fact Sheet.” December 2010, http://documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/StLouisweb.pdf#_ga=1.198022316.2052297339.1392144939
2: Encyclopaedia Britanica, Fifteenth Edition, 1991.

harsh repression of opponents.
The Second Empire was a time of rapid and
unprecedented economic expansion. Industrial
production doubled, foreign trade tripled,
railway mileage expanded six-fold. The first large
investment banks were founded as well as the first
department store. The French merchant marine
became the second largest in the world as Napoleon
III negotiated the first free trade agreement
with England.2
The growth and influence of French capital
expanded across borders. Bridges, railways, and
sewage systems were built with French money
and engineering throughout continental
Europe. Veolia often sites CGE’s
centrality in this era of industrialization
and urbanization.
CGE’s founding president, Count
Henri Siméon was a political leader of
the Elysée Party that officially approved
Napoleon III’s 1851 coup. A year later
the Count presided over the merger that
founded the LyonMediterranean Railway
Company. In the year of
CGE’s founding, he was
also presiding over
a city planning
commission writing
the new Master
Plan for the city
of Paris.
French
businessmen
were becoming
wealthy, founding
enterprises,
like

CGE, that still exist today. A disproportionate
number of these successful entrepreneurs were
not only allies of Napoleon III, but former disciples
of Saint-Simon. Napoleon himself is said to have
had Saint-Simonist leanings.3
The founders of CGE also identified themselves
as followers of Saint-Simonianism—the philosophy
expanded from the work of Claude-Henry de
Rouvroy de Saint-Simon. French social theorist and
chief founder of Christian Socialism, Saint-Simon
has been described as a “pervasive influence on the
intellectual life of 19th Century Europe.”4 Though
often understood as an early utopian socialist
thinker, one of Marx’s and Engels’ influences, his
was not an anti-capitalist vision. In opposition to
the exploitation of the feudalism and militarism
of his time, “the Saint-Simonian doctrine relied
on a benevolent dictatorship of industrialists and
scientists to remove inequities.”5
Best known for his work The New Christianity,
he came to preach that the aristocracy and the
priests should be replaced by the capitalists as the
leaders of society—the unproductive elite replaced
by those who were the “innovators and organizers
of the production process.”6 For Saint-Simon, the
productive efficiency of the factory should be
extended to the whole of society.
After his death, his vision began gaining
momentum. By the second French Revolution of
1830, Saint-Simonianism was a briefly recognized
political party with some international supporters.
The founders of CGE saw the operation of public
services by the private sector as bringing factory
efficiency to all aspects of society and ensuring
their place as the new capitalist elite.
Today, if you visit the history sections of Veolia’s
various webpages, Saint-Simonism features

3: Ibid.
4: Ibid.
5: Ibid.
6: Ernesto Screpanti and Stefano Zamagni. “Socialist Economic Thought and Marx,” An Outline of the
History of Economic Thought, Second Edition. p. 135.

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prominently. The private sector, we are told, fueled ‘the modernization’ of France, and Saint-Simonianism
was the ideological underpinning and its adherents the network of business elites responsible for CGE’s
and the industrial revolution’s success.7

This narrative of the uninterrupted success of the
private sector and the inability of state-operated
utilities to carry the load of French modernity is
distorted at best. Interestingly, by the late 19th
century, French municipalities refused to renew
utilities contracts with private corporations like CGE
because of their high tariffs and failure to expand
networks to poor neighborhoods. Privatized water
declined to 17% in 1936. It only started to increase
again in the mid-1950s reaching 32% and 50% in 1975.
With the rise of neoliberal policy and the new model of
privatization branded “public-private partnerships,”
in 2000 it rose to 80%. Under this new system,
instead of a corporation taking full responsibility for
service delivery and financial investment, companies
are only responsible for operation and maintenance,
while major investments are the responsibility of the
municipality. Though the water supply of Paris was
reprivatized in 1985 under a conservative mayor,
the trend is starting to unravel again. In 2009-10, a
socialist mayor remunicipalized the water system of
the French capital.

The Colonies: Saint-Simonian fervor for
private industry was developing in the
context of a growing colonial empire
that came to include not only colonies in
the West Indies and South America, but
Algeria, and under Napoleon III, parts of
modern-day Vietnam and Cambodia.
Napoleon III doubled the area of French
colonial holdings with a patchwork of
colonies, protectorates, and military
bases. By 1900, France would be the
world’s second-largest colonial empire.
Some of the largest business ventures
in France were not surprisingly companies
profiting from ventures both at home
and in the colonies. CGE had connections
to ‘multinational’ enterprise from the
beginning. The Lyon-Mediterranean Railway
held contracts for railway operation in the South-East of France as well as Algeria. Like the railroads, a
potent symbol of colonization for many in the Global South, Napoleon was consolidating and expanding
water and sanitation infrastructure. Sewage treatment and filtered water systems were understood, at
the time, to be the same kind of profitable new market as the railways.
One of the first private companies to operate municipal water systems in France, it did not take long for
CGE to cross the border. In 1880 CGE was awarded its first international contract, in Venice. In the next
two years, imperial trade routes take them to Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1882 and Porto in 1883. CGE’s
reach stretches further and further afield into the lives of the colonized.
Roots of a New Era: In the case of Veolia, we see the imperial and colonial roots of current multinational
corporations and global privatization. The first free trade agreements were signed and ‘multinational
corporations’ formed far before Reagan and Thatcher-style neoliberalism. In some basic ways,
neoliberalism shares a Saint-Simonian aesthetic of technological progress, the primacy of production and
efficiency, and the notion of entrepreneurial industrialists as the true benefactors of society. Saint-Simon’s
vision was to replace the unproductive and war-mongering nobility with the capitalists. He believed this
shift would ensure a more humane social structure that would facilitate the uplift of the poor. It was a
vision of a new social hierarchy, but a hierarchy nonetheless, and one that is familiar today in its violent
warehousing of the poor, rather than the path to social justice that Saint-Simon may have envisioned.

8

7: Aymeric Blank and Sarah Botton. “Water Services and the Private Sector in Developing Countries: Comparative Perceptions and
Discussion Dynamics.” AFD Research Department. 2010, http://www.afd.fr/webdav/shared/PUBLICATIONS/RECHERCHE/Scientifiques/
Recherches/02-Recherches-VA.pdf
Laetitia Guerin-Schneider and Dominique Lorrain. “The relationships public authorities-private companies in the water and draining sector,”
2003, http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=15175987

gROWING, GROWING: Veolia Timeline
Growing in a whirlwind of aggressive mergers
and acquisitions, CGE has parented three of the
world’s most powerful corporations in their fields:
Veolia Environnement, which includes Veolia’s
water and sanitation services; VINCI, the largest
construction company in the world by revenue; and
French international media conglomerate, Vivendi.
Mismanagement scandals and attempts at rebranding
have characterized its more recent history.
For over a century, CGE remained largely focused
on water. In 1953, in its centennial year, CGE was
selling water to 8 million people in France, almost
19% of the population. The appointment of Guy
Dejouany as CEO in 1976 marked a shift for CGE.
A massive series of takeovers in 1980 extended
its reach into the fields of waste management,
energy, transportation, construction, and
property. CGE’s shift began with a massive
merger of a number of subsidiaries into Omnium
de Traitement et de Valorisation (OTV). The new
subsidiary specialized in the design, engineering
and manufacture of water and wastewater
treatment equipment. CGE then began acquiring
controlling interests in a number of transitrelated companies including the Compagnie
Générale d’Entreprises Automobiles (CGEA), that
specialized in industrial vehicles, and Compagnie
Générale Française de Tramways (CGET), later
dividing into two branches: Connex and Onyx.
CGE expanded into energy services, acquiring
both the Compagnie Générale de Chauffe, and
the Montenay group, later renamed Dalkia.
These three subsidiaries would later comprise
Veolia Environnement.

In 1983, CGE supported the founding of
Canal+, the first Pay-TV channel in France.
Throughout the 1990s, CGE expanded
into
telecommunications
and
mass
media, culminating in the 2000 merger
that produced Vivendi Universal and
Vivendi Environnement.

This was a period of rapid expansion as well
as scandal and mismanagement, under the
leadership of Henri Proglio. Most notably
in 1996, over one third of the directors of
Vivendi Universal’s main board were under
investigation for corruption. CGE scrambled
to jettison its debt load with the reduction
of Vivendi Universal’s credit rating to ‘junk’
status and the forced resignation of CEO, JeanMarie Messier. Messier was later convicted
and fined in France for fraud as well as by the
U.S. Securities Exchange Commission, and
denied a $25 million severance package.8

In 1998, CGE changed its name to Vivendi.
In 1999, Vivendi Environnement was founded
to consolidate Vivendi Water (Water), Onyx
(Waste Management), Dalkia (Energy) and
Connex (Transportation). In 2002, Vivendi
Universal sold off a majority stake of Vivendi
Environnement and renamed it Veolia
Environnement in 2003. Finally, in 2005 the
company’s four divisions, water, environmental
services, energy, and transportation, adopt a
single name: Veolia.9

8: Global Exchange. “Veolia’s Other Offenses.” http://www.globalexchange.org/economicactivism/veolia/otheroffenses
9: Veolia.com. “Veolia Celebrates 160 Years.” http://www.veolia.com/en/group/history

9

With a new name and logo, Veolia maintains
hundreds of subsidiaries in dozens of countries
under Veolia Water, Veolia Environmental
Services, Veolia Energy, Veolia Transport, and
sometimes under other names: Transdev, US
Filter, Apa Nova, United Water, PVK, Onyx
Environmental, Dalkia, Connex, to name a few.

The last five years has seen Veolia assuring
its shareholders that it will be getting out of
the transportation sector entirely as it battles
debt.10 In 2011 Veolia Environnment completed
a deal with French state-owned bank, Caisse
des Dépôts, merging their respective Frenchowned transportation subsidiaries to create
a new French transnational transportation
company that is jointly owned by the two. The
new company is presently called Transdev and
is 50% owned by Veolia11 and 50% owned by
Caisse des Depots. In 2011, Veolia Transport
ceased to exist in France, but the US subsidiary
Veolia Transportation Services Inc continued
to operate in the US until July 2014, when the
US subsidiary changed its name to Transdev
Services Inc. This name change reflects
a definite change in ownership, as Veolia
Transportation Services Inc was wholly owned
by Veolia Environnment, while Transdev
Services Inc is wholly owned by Transdev,
which is only 50% owned by Veolia.12

10

10: Veolia’s debt problems were highlighted in 2012 when its credit rating was downgraded by Moody’s Investors Services: “Moody’s Investors Service has today downgraded to Baa1 from A3 the senior unsecured ratings of Veolia Environnement SA.” 7 Feb 2012, https://www.
moodys.com/research/Moodys-downgrades-Veolias-rating-to-Baa1-stable-outlook--PR_237104
11: Until February 2015, Veolia Group was Veolia Environnement.
12: Patel, Tara. “Transdev to Sell European Assets, Cut Debt as Part of Overhaul.” Bloomberg. 26 Mar 2013, http://www.bloomberg.com/
news/articles/2013-03-26/transdev-to-sell-european-assets-cut-debt-as-part-of-overhaul
Bloomberg. “Company Overview.” http://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=1222575

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN VEOLIA
COMES TO TOWN?

Veolia says:
“We are highly motivated to build and sustain positive
working relationships with organized labor.”
“We deliver bus and rail service at lower cost, and at
quality levels that are comparable and often better than
publicly operated transit service.”
“An increasing number of transit agencies have realized that
they are unable to maintain service levels with decreased
funding for their transit systems, and contracting with
the private sector for all or part of the service can be an
alternative to layoffs and service cuts.”13
Especially in the context of economic recession and
state austerity measures, this is a very appealing pitch.
But as highlighted in recent reports coming out of North
America, Veolia’s prioritization of private profit is clearly
at odds with the environment and public welfare.14
According to Food and Water Watch and others,
Veolia often underbids its competitors for the operation

of municipal utilities and transportation systems,
but the promised cost reduction translates to an
increase in service fees while the service itself shrinks.
Route cuts on bus lines and failure to deliver quality
access to water in poor and rural areas is common.
Infrastructure is often neglected, maintenance
deferred and substandard equipment used. More
often than not, unions are quickly busted and working
conditions become untenable. High staffing turn over
and failure to attract experienced staff is common
with conditions of impossible scheduling and minimal
breaks, low salaries, and inevitably the dissolution of
benefits and pension plans. In addition, the fine print of
Veolia contracts often skirts full responsibility in liability
provisions.
In the words of the international human rights
organization, Global Exchange, “Worldwide, consumers
report that Veolia consistently charges high rates,
provides poor service, and fails to make promised
improvements.”15

13: Transdev North America. “Why Contract with Transdev North America: The Leader in Public-Private Contracting in Transit.” http://www.transdevna.com/
Company/Contract-Options/Why-Transdev.aspx
14: Food & Water Watch. “Money Down the Drain: How Private Control of Water Wastes Public Resources,” 2009, http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/reports/
money-down-the-drain/
Food & Water Watch. “A Closer Look: Veolia Environnement,” 2010, http://documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/veolia.pdf
Food & Water Watch. “Veolia Environnement: A Profile of the World’s Largest Water Service Corporation,” 2011, http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/reports/
veolia-environnement-a-profile/
Novato Friends of Locally Operated Wastewater. “Veolia and the Environment: A Bad Fit for Novato.” http://freepdfs.net/veolia-and-theenvironment-a-bad-fit-for-novato-green-party-of/1eb2bff3a6f63a89ff50ad446c8cf5d0/
11
Public Citizen. “Veolia Environment: A Corporate Profile” 2005, http://www.citizen.org/documents/Vivendi-USFilter.pdf
15: Global Exchange. “Veolia’s Other Offenses.” http://www.globalexchange.org/economicactivism/veolia/otheroffenses

The CAC 40 is a
benchmark French
stock market index

in 2010, all cac 40 companies (except unibail rodamco) had at least one director in common.

QUESTIONS OF THE FUTURE

“Founded at the dawn of the industrial era and the start of
urban development, Veolia Environnement has continually
adapted to political, social and cultural changes over the
past 160 years. Now our goal is to stay a step ahead, by finding
answers to the questions of the future.” –Veolia.com
In their “2012 Annual and Sustainability Report,”
Veolia’s current CEO, Antoine Frérot introduced
Veolia’s vision of the future. Geographically,
Veolia proposes to refocus “on the most dynamic
economies to benefit from their rapid growth”;

photo via corporate boards in european law: a comparative analysis

the list includes central and eastern Europe, Asia,
the Middle East and Latin America. Veolia is also
aiming to expand into “new markets” including
shale gas extraction and the dismantling of
nuclear facilities.16 Most recently, Veolia has been
awarded the contract for the disposal of Syrian
chemical weapons.17 Given Veolia’s track record
of mismanagement with harmful environmental
and human consequences, as well as its current
entrenchment in Israeli occupation in the region,
this is a troubling new role for Veolia.

16: Veolia Environnement. “2012 Annual and Sustainability Report.” http://www.veoliawaterst.com/sites/g/files/dvc471/f/assets/documents/2015/01/
3226416023Veolia-annual-report-2012.pdf
17: “Under the British government’s support for the international mission led by the United Nations to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons, Veolia was chosen to
destroy 150 metric tons of hazardous materials. The batches of “Class B precursor” chemicals were treated at Veolia’s Ellesmere Port high
temperature incinerator (HTi) in the United Kingdom, near Liverpool, under the existing hazardous waste treatment contract between Veolia
and the Disposal Services Authority, a part of the UK Ministry of Defense.” (Veolia’s “2013 Annual and Sustainability Report,” page 43)
Ironically, a company in breach of international law in its operations on occupied Palestinian land has been awarded a contract to a UN body.
12 Right now Israel has a monopoly on nuclear weapons in the region. After Syria’s chemical weapons are destroyed, Israel will have a near
monopoly over chemical weapons as well.

Veolia’s most recent report,
published in May of 2014,
reiterated a focus on Water, Waste,
and Energy—with no mention
of Transportation—and boasted
202,800 employees around the
world. The report highlights
projects such as a wastewater
treatment plant in Denmark,
waste management contracts in
Australia and the UK, and major
water contracts in Japan and
Ecuador (through a new subsidiary,
Proactiva, operating in eight South
American countries). Veolia has also
been awarded contracts for a water
treatment plant for Shell’s Carmon
Creek heavy-oil project under
construction in Alberta, Canada
and the design of a desalination
plant for a Saudi petrochemical
complex. The Iraqi Ministry for
Municipalities and Public Works
has signed a $115 million contract
with Veolia to build a desalination
plant in southern Iraq.18
But there is resistance. Even in
France, communities are taking back
their water systems. In 2009, after
a 25-year contract, the city of Paris
decided not to renew its contract
with Veolia. Paris has saved money
and stabilized the price of water. In
the rest of Europe, including Belgium,
Germany, Romania, and around the
globe, municipalities have broken
contracts with Veolia and restored

public control of their water.19
To date, there have been over
50 successful campaigns targeting
Veolia, spanning four continents.
As a result, Veolia has lost or failed
to secure contracts totaling $23.97
billion.20 And there is resistance
from within. In 2013 a Veolia Water
employee in Avignon lost his job for
refusing to cut the water off for
families who could no longer pay.
In an interview with Europe1 Radio,
Marc (only his first name has been
made public), a customer service
engineer with Veolia for twenty
years, said, “It could happen to
anyone. You have to make a choice
- either feed the children or pay the
bills. These big companies pocket
the money and redistribute it to
their shareholders, without looking
after their clients or employees.
It’s scandalous.”21
Veolia is just one window to
understand the need for jointstruggle, how corporatization
entangles us with past histories
of oppression and present global
resistances. When we understand
the
historical
continuities,
exemplified by Veolia, between
early structures of Western
Imperialism and industrialization
and today’s globalization and
neoliberalism, we strengthen our
ability to build new solidarities and
communities of struggle.

18: Veolia. “2013 Annual and Sustainability Report.” http://www.veolia.com/sites/g/files/dvc181/f/assets/documents/2014/05/radd_veolia_2013_gb.pdf
19: Global Exchange. “Veolia’s Other Offenses.” http://www.globalexchange.org/economicactivism/veolia/otheroffenses
20: Global Exchange. “Veolia Campaign Victories.” http://www.globalexchange.org/economicactivism/veolia/victories
21: McPartland, Ben. “Fired for Refusing to Cut Off Poor Families’ Water.” The Local: France’s News in English, http://www.thelocal.
fr/20130419/sacked-for-refusing-to-cut-off-poor-families-water

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art by monica

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mendoza

corporatization
16

17

despite veolia’s political interference
communities around the world protect human right to water
WRITTEN BY katherine sawyer, national water campaign organizer, corporate accountability international

The global water crisis continues
to have a staggering impact on
human life, leaving one in four
people without enough safe
water to drink. Yet the global
water industry is swooping in
with so-called solutions that
have only made the situation
worse. Veolia—one of the world’s
largest water transnationals is
leading the way. The water giant
is interfering politically to gain
control of public water systems
around the globe to turn a profit
at the expense of both people’s
access to their most essential
resource and the long-term
sustainability of public water
infrastructure. In fact, Veolia’s
very business model depends
upon the commodification of our
most basic human right.
But communities around the
globe that have experienced
first-hand the rate hikes, health
and safety violations, and mass
worker layoffs that characterize
Veolia’s poor track record are
taking a stand. Since 2002, at least
32 U.S. municipalities have taken
back control of their water systems,
many from Veolia, and international
communities from Indonesia to
Greece are also
making sure their
18 water stays in public

hands. And these public utilities,
with their mandate to provide the
public with safe and clean water,
are proving they can do a better
job than privateers like Veolia,
which have a fundamentally
different mandate: to increase
corporate profit.
Take Paris, for instance,
notably
the
international
headquarters of Veolia and
another leading transnational
water privatizer, Suez. For
decades Parisians watched Suez
and Veolia pad their bottom lines
with profits that were supposed
to go toward improving the
city’s water infrastructure. But
in 2008 the city remunicipalized
its water supply, saving tens of
millions of dollars and lowering
water rates by 8 percent. So
it’s no surprise to hear Veolia
CEO Antoine Frerot express
his concern for Veolia’s private
water business. In a recent
Reuters article, Frerot said, “The
Paris remunicipalization decision
has done a lot of damage to our
profession. Whenever I visited
a prospect around the world
[. . .] they would ask me why
they would do business with
me if even the French capital
has no confidence in the French
water firms.”

Veolia’s Trojan Horse Contracts

As Veolia’s global reputation
has taken a hit, the water giant
has launched a new “Trojan
horse” consulting strategy to
boost profits and get its foot in the
door of resistant communities.
These
“Peer
Performance
Solution” contracts begin with
the corporation consulting on
efficiency measures and open
the door to Veolia’s increased
involvement in the operation
and management of community
water
systems.
Currently,
Veolia holds these contracts in
major cities including DC, NYC,
Pittsburgh, and LA.
Veolia claims these new
contracts will help cities be more
“efficient” in water delivery, but
experience has shown that the
type of efficiency the private
water industry is concerned
with is efficient generation of
corporate profits. What’s more,
Veolia’s so-called efficiency
often comes at the expense of
public health, worker rights,
and responsible stewardship
of the long-term infrastructure
so essential to effective public
water delivery systems. Under
a decade-long Veolia contract
in Gladewater, Texas, for
instance, residents experienced

numerous
water
quality
problems,
as well as broken
water meters that
cost the city tens of
thousands of dollars.
As a result of poor
water quality, some
residents reportedly
had to spend money
on buying bottled
water before the
city remunicipalized
in 2012. In Brussels,
a
subsidiary
of
Veolia called Aquiris
deliberately stopped
treating wastewater
released into the
river during contract
negotiations in 2009—
putting pressure on
the local government
and demonstrating
the willingness of
the corporation to
put profits before
environmental and
public health.

St. Louis Thwarts
Veolia’s Political
Manipulation

Despite
Veolia’s
attempts to sneak
Trojan horse contracts through backdoor channels,
communities in the United States—like those
around the world—are exposing and halting this
political interference. Last year in St. Louis, for
instance, Corporate Accountability International
worked closely with the Dump Veolia coalition, a
close-knit group of human rights, environmental,

and labor groups
concerned
about
Veolia’s record and
business practices, to
challenge a proposed
water contract.
Veolia’s attempts
to gain managerial
control of the
city’s water system
ran the gamut
from wielding its
financial
power
to exploiting its
political connections.
Not only did the
water giant hire a
lawyer who doubles
as a lobbyist for
a political action
committee that has
donated generously
to Mayor Slay’s
election campaign,
but in 2010, Veolia
also began making
presentations to St.
Louis Water Division
and touring the
water facilities.
But concerned
citizens caught wind
of these and other
egregious dealings,
art by maia brown
and brought this
political interference to light. After community
members brought considerable public pressure to
bear, the city initiated public hearings on the contract.
And although Veolia continued to
send glossy promotional materials
to public officials and coordinated 19
a damage-control campaign with

the mayor’s office, the peoples’
will prevailed. With a coordinated
campaign of calls, media exposure,
and public protest, the Dump
Veolia coalition moved the Board of
Aldermen to action. Key Aldermen
declared their intention to introduce
a resolution to remove funding for
the Veolia contract. After months
of public outcry and negative media
coverage, Veolia was forced to back
out of St. Louis.
As St. Louis Board of Aldermen
President Reed explains,
“In St. Louis, public opinion on the
proposed Veolia contract was loud
and clear. I stood against it because
I believed the contract would have
given Veolia a foothold to push
through future contracts, deepening
its power over and ability to profit
from our water system. Veolia’s
tactic is to work out sweetheart
deals with influential players in cities
like ours, but Veolia doesn’t have
the whole city in its back pocket.
Our experience shows that vigilance
and strong public commitment
can prevent private water from
circumventing democracy.”

Local Legislation Protects Public Water

In other communities both in the U.S. and
around the world, local activism has secured
public water control for the long run via local
legislation. In 2011, residents in Gloucester,
Massachusetts passed a local ordinance
approved by the state legislature requiring
a community referendum before the city
can lease or sell its water system. And, in
March of this year, the regional government
in Lazio, Italy passed a law declaring water
a common good to be managed on a notfor-profit basis, with citizen participation
in decision-making.
In order to hold local governments accountable
and enact these measures, citizens must
understand and educate others on the dangers
of contracting with Veolia and global water
privatizers. As the case of St. Louis illustrates,
people mobilize once they learn how the private
water industry tries to manipulate policymaking and bypass the democratic process for
their own corporate profit. By building coalitions
of community members and organizations to
focus public attention on backroom dealings
and misinformation campaigns through public
demonstration and the media, citizens can hold
their governments accountable and ensure
democratically controlled water systems for
the future.

FOR MORE INFORMATION Read Corporate Accountability International’s white paper:
Troubled Waters: Misleading Industry PR and the Case for Public Water

20

the corporate stanglehold over the united nations

how big business already wields significant power over the un water agenda

an abridged version of an oct. 2009 report by richard gerard, polaris institute
At the 5th World Water Forum in strategy of calling for a new, more worry about private interests
Istanbul, the global water justice democratic, and representative losing the ability to set agendas
movement along with progressive home for a global water forum and control outcomes inside a UN
parliamentarians from over a gained exposure in numerous event. Indeed, the World Water
dozen countries succeeded in media reports during and after Council, its members and other
derailing the Forum’s ministerial the forum. It also successfully corporations that make profit
process. In this vein, close to a highlighted both the lack of from buying and selling water
dozen countries (including Benin, transparency at the triennial already have a strong presence
Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, meetings and the problems with inside the United Nations. And,
Honduras, Panama, Paraguay the forum’s pro business themes perhaps not surprisingly, the
inverse is also a reality. With 5 UN
and Venezuela) signed onto a and workshops.
statement calling on states to
Forum organizers, the World agencies listed as members of the
develop a global water forum Water Council (WWC)1, were WWC, the United Nations has a
based on the principles of forced to make defensive strong presence inside the WWC.
democracy, full participation, statements to the media Moreover, the Director of the
equity, transparency and social countering that a UN organized Division of Water and Secretary
inclusion within the framework world water forum would not be of the International Hydrological
of the United Nations. A larger inclusive.2 Apparently, the WWC Programme of the United Nations
Scientific
and
number of countries also signed was fearful that if the United Educational,
a statement calling for water to Nations organized a global water Cultural Organization (UNESCO),
be recognized as a human right forum with help from the global András Szöllösy-Nagy, has held a
within the United Nations Charter. water justice movement, their seat on the WWC’s 2006 – 2009
These actions echoed calls ability to set the agenda as well Board of Governors.3
To be sure, the relationships
from many water justice activists as forge business deals and
throughout the week and in the partnerships would be limited between UN agencies and the
ensuing months to have the under a more inclusive and WWC are but one of many links
connecting big business and the
United Nations (UN) convene the accountable structure.
However, the WWC need not United Nations system. The UN
next World Water Forum. This

1: Please see full report for more information on the World Water Council. URL: bit.ly/1bd0o88
2: “Activists Slam Water Forum”, Agence France Presse, March 21, 2009.
3: Elections for the new WWC Board of Governors will take place at the WWC’s 5th General Assembly in October 2009.

21

source: cnn.com

ted turner, media magnate and founder of cnn, created the un foundation.
has ventured a long way down the
road of business partnerships and
private financing to the point where
cooperating with business and using
corporate funding has become a
fundamental cornerstone of the
entire institution.
If a global water forum were
to take place under the umbrella
of the United Nations today, it
would have to be done in such a
way as to overcome the corporate
stranglehold that already exists
in the UN, including the for profit
water services companies, the
food and beverage industry, plus
numerous other large water
using multinational corporations
and their business associations.
At the very least the global
water justice movement needs

to develop a counter-strategy Research Institute for Social
and the UN over the past few years past two decades mirroring
to effectively checkmate this Development (UNSRID) found
paints a picture of the private the shift towards neo-liberal
corporate influence in the UN if that agencies such as UNICEF,
sector permeating every level economic policies adopted by
it is going to pursue the goal of the UNDP, the UNEP, and the
of the United Nations through most Western governments
making the UN the appropriate World Health Organization are
international
financial
various avenues including public and
home of the world water forum. actively engaged – and deeply
private partnerships, special institutions. Through the 1970’s
Where does
and into the
80’s, the
the corporate
“In the late nineties, a new era of corporate infiltration began when UN early
influence come
UN was in fact
from?
agencies started developing partnerships with multinational corporations mandated to
There is no
regulate
and
the
easy way of and seeking project funding from corporate philanthropists. This trend was monitor
assessing the set in motion with the $1 billion donation from media magnet Ted Turner in 1997, activities
of
transnational
full extent of
c o r p o ra t i o n s
the corporate made possible through the creation of the UN Foundation.”
infiltration of
(TNCs)
who
the United Nations given the aligned – with the private
advisers, and projects financed were perceived to be unduly
diverse makeup of the UN system sector in thousands of different
pressuring states in the Global
by corporations, among others.
and the various roles played by partnerships and initiatives.4
Relations between the United South and responsible for certain
businesses throughout. A 2006 A cursory overview of the
Nations and big business have aspects of underdevelopment.5
report from the United Nations relationship between business
changed significantly over the This work was done through

4: Utting, P., Zammit, A., “Beyond Pragmatism: Appraising UN-Business Partnerships”, UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD),
Markets, Business and Regulation Programme Paper Number 1, October, 2006.
5: Utting, Peter, “UN-Business Partnerships: Whose Agenda Counts,” UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD),
22 December, 2000.
6: ibid.
7: ibid.

the now defunct United Nations
Centre
on
Transnational
Corporations (UNCTC).
UN policies towards TNCs began
to shift in the 1980s from regulating
impacts on developing countries to
facilitating the access of developing
countries to FDI through agencies
like the UN Conference on Trade
and Development (UNCTAD, the
UNCTC’s successor organization).6
In the late nineties, a new era of
corporate infiltration began when
UN agencies started developing
partnerships with multinational
corporations
and
seeking
project funding from corporate
philanthropists.7 This trend was
set in motion with the $1 billion
donation from media magnet Ted
Turner in 1997, made possible

23

through the creation of the UN
Foundation. A year later, the
United Nations Global Compact, a
non-binding voluntary corporate
initiative, was established where
member
companies
were
encouraged to learn from other
members’ best practices.
Turner’s donation represented
a shift towards private sector
financing of UN projects, while
the founding of the Global
Compact reflected the rise of
voluntary initiatives in place
of state regulation as the
favoured way of persuading
multi-national corporations to
act responsibly. The result has
been in some cases positive,
but the Global Compact and its
associated programs also gives

24

corporations the opportunity to
wrap themselves in the blue flag
of the United Nations without
taking solid action to support UN
rights based mandates. Indeed,
corporations reap more benefit
from these close relationships
than the United Nations and its
member states.
The infiltration of the UN
by corporations was part of a
broader shift to the prevailing
neoliberal model of less
government regulation and
more private sector involvement
in policy making. This change
was recently summarized by
Executive Director of the Global
Compact Georg Kell in a speech
to Dow Jones Private Equity
Analyst Conference.

As recently as the late 1990s,
indifference and mutual suspicion
characterized the relationship
between the UN and business…
this began to change with the
launch of the Global Compact…
when the UN started to reach out
to business…The idea was that
by embedding global markets
in shared values, by offering
opportunities
for
collective
action through learning, dialogue
and
partnerships,
greater
sustainability for markets could be
achieved while ensuring that the
benefits of economic efficiency
spread faster and wider.8
Voluntary corporate social
responsibility (CSR) projects
therefore emerged as the
dominant model for regulating

8: Speech by Georg Kell, addressing the Dow Jones Private Equity Analyst Conference, “UN Global Compact Executive Director
Addresses Private Equity Community,” September 17. http://www.csrwire.com/press/press_release/27662-UNGlobal-CompactExecutive-Director-Addresses-Private-Equity-Community

corporate behaviour by national
governments and inside the
United Nations resulting in the
kind of relationship the UN has
with the private sector today.
The UN has clearly bought into
the CSR mantra that the goals and
actions of corporations contribute
to social and environmental
justice
and
the
broader
objectives of the United Nations.
The major flaw in this model
is that when a decision needs
to be made between ensuring
increased profits and protecting
human or environmental rights,
corporations are ultimately
beholden to their shareholders.
The dominant capitalist model
does not allow future returns on
investment to be compromised.

Therefore, voluntary programs
like the Global Compact, which
is part of the broader CSR
movement,
cannot
protect
people or the environment from
the profit motive.

Can there be water justice
through the UN?

In a climate of increased
corporate power the United
Nations obviously cannot ignore
multinational corporations and
their influence on public policy.
However, by moving away from a
mandate of regulating the power
and influence of corporations to
becoming a major promoter of
public private partnerships and
a welcome un-critical place for
TNCs, the United Nations has

embarked on a troubling and
dangerous path.
The time has come for the
global water justice movement
to re-think its strategy regarding
the world water forum and its
demand that it be relocated
somewhere inside the United
Nations system. If the movement
continues to pursue the strategy
of bringing the world water forum
under the auspices of the UN,
then it is imperative that a parallel
campaign strategy be mounted,
not only to checkmate the
considerable influence wielded
by the water corporations
themselves in the UN, but also
the corporate power that has
penetrated most of its agencies.
At the very least, these issues

25

need to be discussed and debated within the water justice movement
now before it is too late and we find out that we have walked into a
blackhole.

VEOLIA & TRANSPORTATION

THINKING ABOUT CORPORATIZATION & FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
Austerity Mercenaries

Veolia

• Véolia is a member of the Global Compact
• Véolia’s influences the United Nations through
its membership in organizations like the World
Water Council (WWC) and Aquafed. Véolia
subsidiaries, Société des Eaux de Marseille (JV with
Suez), Société des Eaux d’Arles (JV with Suez) and
Proactiva Medio Ambiente (JV with FCC) are also
members of the WWC.
• In 2002, Véolia Environment provided the impetus
for an initiative called Access to Basic Services
for All, which seeks to develop an international
standards framework on how to build publicprivate partnerships for utilities. According to a UN
Global Compact document, Véolia approached the
United Nations Institute for Training and Research
(UNITAR) about the possibility of becoming
involved in a project promoting P3s for local public
services provision. UN-Habitat and UNITAR worked
together with private companies, local and national
Governments and NGOs, to produce draft guidelines
on access to basic services.9 UN-Habitat and UNITAR
have also begun to work with Véolia Environment
to develop guidebooks targeted at elected and
appointed policymakers, in response to the need to
build capacity to implement guidelines.
• Véolia partners with the United Nations Children’s
Fund (UNICEF) through its disaster response
segment Véoliaforce. Volunteers from the company

are mobilized in the event of a humanitarian crisis
and offer UNICEF their expertise in supplying water
and energy to affected communities. While helpful
in times of emergencies such arrangements form
the basis for broader collaboration or business
opportunities for the company.
• Véolia executives had a heavy presence at the
2008 UN Habitat World Urban Forum in Nanjing,
China, where the company’s senior executive for
partnerships, Cedric Baecher, representing the
private sector gave the final remarks at the closing
session of the forum.10 The report of the fourth
session of the World Urban Forum emphasized that
Governments and local authorities should create an
enabling governance and regulatory environment
to facilitate private sector investments.
• In October 2002, both Véolia’s predecessor
Vivendi and Suez sponsored a United Nations
Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) conference on the legal framework for
water. The conference resulted in a report bearing
the logos of UNESCO, the Academie de l’Eau and
the logos of the two companies. In another link
to UNESCO, Vivendi’s representative at the 3rd
World Water Forum in Kyoto was introduced as
representing the company as well as UNESCO.

Read the full report for more information on the following dens of corporate influence on water issues inside the UN: Global
Compact’s CEO Water Mandate, the World Water Council, and Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.

26

9: Witte, J.M., Reinicke, W., “Business UNusual: Facilitating United Nations Reform Through Partnerships,” commissioned by the
United Nations Global Compact Office, produced by the Global Public Policy Institute, 2005.
10: World Urban Forum 4, Closing Session, Closing Remarks, November 6, 2008, http://www.unhabitat.org/downloads/
docs/6076_32858_WUF4_Closing_Private_Sector.pdf

The hardest hit by economic
recession are often those who
rely most heavily on public
transportation. As a political
culture of economic austerity and
neoliberalism meet to starve or
dismantle social services, public
transit is on the chopping block
in North America and globally.
Veolia Transportation (now
Transdev) is the largest privatizer
of public transportation in North
America.1 Veolia claims to be
committed to balancing the
current urgencies of climate
change, economic recession,
and the rights of organized
labor. Their website boasts:
“an increasing number of transit
agencies have realized that they
are unable to maintain service
levels with decreased funding
for their transit systems, and
contracting with the private
sector for all or part of the
service can be an alternative to
layoffs and service cuts.”2 But

what do “alternative[s] to layoffs
and service cuts” look like under
corporations like Veolia?3
As municipalities reduce or
do away with transportation
subsidies, transit agencies must
rely on employee pay reductions
and fare hikes for riders. When
political hurdles make these
austerity measures difficult,
private operators like Veolia are
often brought in to slash wages
and benefits on the behalf of local
governments. In return these
private operators expect a profit.
Riders’ everyday movements
become a source of profit for
private, foreign investors. When
these investors seek to maximize
their profits by exerting greater
control over peoples’ mobility,
what consequences should
concern us?4
What is at stake in many
communities is freedom of
movement.5
Increasingly the
ability to travel easily within
and between cities and towns is

WRITTEN BY MAIA BROWN
restricted to those who can afford
their own vehicles. As cuts arrive,
one must ask which routes are
being cut; often the transit that
allows the privileged to commute
from the suburbs to downtown
office jobs remain untouched. In
Seattle, we have seen the end
of the Ride-Free-Zone between
downtown stops, a lifeline for
low-income and homeless riders,
and threats of route cuts.6
In his article, “Sweatshops on
Wheels,” Chris Hedges outlines
this trend in the United States,
“This process of destroying our
public transportation system
is largely complete. Our bus
and rail system, compared to
Europe’s or Japan’s, is a joke.
But an even more insidious
process has begun. Multinational
corporations, many of them
foreign, are slowly consolidating
transportation systems into a
few private hands.”7 Veolia is
one of the leaders in this trend
claiming publicly to be “the

1: See “A History of Veolia” for more on Veolia Transportation transition to Transdev.
2: “Why Contract with Transdev North America: The Leader in Public-Private Contracting in Transit.” http://www.transdevna.com/Company/
Contract-Options/Why-Transdev.aspx
3: Veolia’s claims of cost reduction, underbidding other contractors, rarely materialize, often raising costs to municipalities instead. See Susan
Koppelman for more information on the $7 million budget increase in their King County Contract.
4: Conversation with Anson Stewart.
5: Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates, “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the
borders of each State.” Though the ability of the United Nations to enforce international law is notoriously limited and even
this clause does not go far enough for most of us, leaving out the injustice of borders and their problematic history, this still
provides us a rights-based language to talk about the importance of accessible public transport.
6: Led by the Transit Riders Union, Seattleites continue to battle to prevent further route cuts to King County Metro and for
the implementation of a low-income bus fare.
27
7: Hedges, Chris. “Sweatshops on Wheels.” Truthdig.com, Apr 15, 2013. http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/sweatshops_on_wheels_20130415/

largest private sector operator of
multiple modes of transit in North
America,” holding 200 service
contracts and employing 18,000
workers in the United States and
Canada.8 Public Transit covered
in these contracts include, bus,
rail, paratransit, bus rapid transit,
school buses, taxi and shuttle
services. Veolia’s customers
include transit agencies, city
and
county
governments,
municipalities, airports, private
corporations and universities.
A partial list of Veolia’s North
American contracts include the
operation of bus and paratransit
services in Atlanta, Baltimore,
Boston, Denver, Los Angeles,
Montreal, Nassau County (Long
Island, NY), Phoenix, San Diego,
San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto,
and Washington, DC.
The corporate consolidation
of transportation contracts is an
aggressive and cynical one. In
what Naomi Klein terms “disaster
capitalism,” it was Veolia that
took over the New Orleans bus
system after Hurricane Katrina,
immediately stripping workers
of their pensions.9 In New York,
Veolia hired former Senator Al
D’Amato as its lobbyist in order
to take over Nassau County’s bus
service from the Metropolitan

Transportation Authority (MTA).
Months after taking over the
contract,
Hurricane
Sandy
became a convenient pretext
for the implementation of
planned service cuts that
disproportionately
affected
poor riders.10
The mercenary role of
corporate transit operators
further insulates governments
from political accountability
for urban inequality and its
intersections with structural
racism.
The discriminatory
provision (and defunding) of
transit services deepens under
corporatization to keep up
with the demand for better
profit margins.11 Multinationals
become the proxy force for the
structuring and control of public
mobility—the demographic (re)
mapping of urban space by virtue
of a weakened and unequal
public transportation system
maintained for a profit.

Warehousing & Pacification

What, then, are the consequences
of the corporatization of the
business of controlling and limiting
freedom of movement? Describing
Palestinians under Israeli Apartheid,
Israeli Committee Against House
Demolitions (ICAHD) founder, Jeff

Halper, calls this the “warehousing”
of “surplus people.”12
Palestinians, Halper describes,
are warehoused by the State
of Israel not only in detention
facilities, but by literal barriers
like checkpoints, separation walls
and fences, as well as bureaucratic
restrictions on building permits
and
identification
regimes
that prohibit or severely limit
movement between areas.13
Of course, Veolia is part of this
infrastructure of separation and
restriction, operating segregated
transportation that impedes
Palestinian
movement
and
illegally annexes their land.14
In the logic of occupation and
Apartheid,
Palestinians
are
unwanted residents on soughtafter real estate, so too, the
urban poor around the world:
residents of informal settlements,
slums, shack dwellers, or the
‘South side’ of most major cities
in the U.S.
Jimmy Johnson, researcher
and analyst of the security
and arms industry, urges us to
understand that these strategies
for maintaining systems of
inequality are not isolated,
they cross borders, and that
the trade in these “tools” is a
profitable one. With the highest

8: www.transdevna.com
9: Klein, Naomi. Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
10: Kabak, Benjamin. “NICE BUS, $7.3 million in the red, already threatening service cuts.” http://secondavenuesagas.com/2012/02/16/nicebus-7-3-million-in-the-red-already-threatening-service-cuts/
11: Conversation with Anson Stewart
12: Halper, Jeff. “The Palestinians: Warehousing a ‘Surplus People.’” http://www.icahd.org/node/330
28 13: “Background on the Restriction of Movement.” B’tselem, http://www.btselem.org/freedom_of_movement
14: “Veolia Environnement” Who Profits? Exposing the Israeli Occupation Industry. http://whoprofits.org/company/veolia-environnement

documented incarceration rate
in the world, mass incarceration,
including the explosive growth of
private prisons and immigration
detention facilities, is the most
overt form of warehousing
in the United States, but not
the only one.15
We see warehousing and its
global scope in the lead up to
most Olympic games and the
World Cup. After receiving Israeli
training, for example, the Beijing
police used ‘counterinsurgency’
tactics to ensure the invisibility of
Beijing’s thousands of displaced
slum dwellers and to exclude
them from any economic benefit
that supposedly comes with the
hosting of the Olympics.
Johnson
describes
the
globalization of what he calls
“the
pacification
industry,”
the control of populations
and public space.16
Johnson
traces how the strategies and
technologies of counterterrorism,
counterinsurgency, surveillance,
policing, urban warfare, and
incarceration
are
routinely
“translated to other systems
of injustice across the world.”17
The state of Israel, in particular,
has become a hub for the
pacification industry. The West
Bank and Gaza, he argues, are

treated as ‘laboratories’ for
methods of social control. The
‘expertise’ of a long-standing
occupying force is exported in
trainings led by Israeli police and
military. These trainings, and
the institutional relationships
that often develop afterwards,
have been held in India, China,
and Canada. But no other nation
has a closer relationship with
the Israeli security apparatus
than the United States. Some
of the many trainees include
police forces in Alameda County;
Atlanta; Boston; Cambridge, MA;
Commerce, GA; Detroit; Duxbury,
MA; Knoxville, TN; Los Angeles;
Miami; New York City; Pembroke
Pines, FL; San Francisco; San
Mateo; Santa Clara; Seattle;
Stamford, CT; Sterling Heights,
MI; Suffolk County, NY as well
as Georgia Tech University
and the Maryland Department
of Transportation.18
The militarization of U.S.
police forces through the “war
on drugs” and the “war on
terror” that fuels what we have
come to understand as the
“the New Jim Crow” of mass
incarceration are all part of the
“pacification industry.”19
In Palestine we see starkly
the interlocking mechanisms of

land annexation, housing and
transportation
discrimination,
and mass incarceration in the
service of military occupation,
Apartheid, and settler colonialism.
We see these mechanisms
mirrored in the United States in
‘urban planning,’ the defunding
and corporatization of public
services like transportation, and
mass incarceration. We should
not be surprised that the same
corporations design, operate,
and profit from these systems.
What the pacification industry
means is that people are not
only warehoused in literal jails,
but the open-air prisons that are
slums, surrounded by militarized
police and no affordable ride out.
Today one out of every three
city-dwellers live in a slum.20
Limiting a population’s ability
to travel reliably outside of
ghettoized neighborhoods keeps
people out of sight and out of
mind and any potential resistance
contained. Corporatization of
transportation is the outsourcing
and entrenchment of one
form of warehousing making
up one tentacle of the
pacification industry.

15: “The Influence of the Private Prison Industry in Immigration Detention.” Detention Watch Network. http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/privateprisons
16: “The Matrix of Control: From Israel to the World,” an interview with Jimmy Johnson: http://peoplesgeography.com/2009/09/08/the-matrix-of-control-fromisrael-to-the-world-2/
17: ibid.
18: Johnson, Jimmy. “Israel’s Export of Occupation Police Tactics.” Electronicintifada.com, Oct 9, 2009. http://electronicintifada.net/content/
israels-export-occupation-police-tactics/8485
19: Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
29
20: “State of the World’s Cities 2006/7.” UN-HABITAT, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/11292101_alt.pdf and
“The Dawn of an Urban World.” World Health Organization, http://www.who.int/kobe_centre/publications/hiddencities_media/p1_who_
un_habitat_hidden_cities.pdf

why governments are on the hook to
ensure clean, safe water for everyone
the right to water & sanitation are living documents
waiting to be used for transformational change around the world
WRITTEN BY maude barlow, original publisher: alternet, july 27 2011, permission to reprint
art by maia brown

One year ago today, the United
Nations
General
Assembly
adopted an historic resolution
recognizing the human right to
safe and clean drinking water
and sanitation. Two months later,
the Human Rights
Council adopted a
30 second resolution
affirming
that

drinking water and sanitation
are human rights, and setting
out the new obligations and
responsibilities all governments
now carry to develop appropriate
tools and mechanisms to
progressively achieve the full
realization of these rights.
Together the two resolutions
represent an extraordinary

breakthrough in the international
struggle for the right to safe clean
drinking water and sanitation and
a crucial milestone in the fight for
water justice.
The struggle to achieve this
milestone was a long one and
blocked for years by some
powerful
corporations
and
governments who prefer to view

water as a private commodity
to be put on the open market
for sale. Indeed, forty-one
countries, including the U.K.,
Australia, Japan, Canada and the
U.S., abstained in the General
Assembly vote. (However, in a
welcome and surprise move, the
U.S. voted in favour of the Human
Rights Council’s resolution.)
Some of these governments
insist that they are still under no
new obligations in this area, as
they claim the General Assembly
vote was not binding. This is
incorrect. Because the Human
Rights Council resolution is an
interpretation of two exiting
international treaties, it clarifies
that the resolution adopted by
the General Assembly is legally
binding in international law. Said
an official UN press release, “The
right to water and sanitation is a
human right, equal to all other
human rights, which implies that
it is justiciable and enforceable.”
This means that whether or not
they voted for the right to water
and sanitation, every member
state of the United Nations is
now required to prepare a Plan of
Action for the Realization of the
Right to Water and Sanitation and
to report to the UN Committee
on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights on its performance in this
area. This plan of action must
meet three obligations: the
Obligation to Respect, whereby
the state must refrain from any
action or policy that interferes

with these rights, such as
removing water and wastewater
services because of an inability
to pay as has happened in inner
city Detroit and Boston; the
Obligation to Protect, whereby
the state is obliged to prevent
third parties from interfering
with these rights, such as
protecting local communities
from industrial pollution and
inequitable extraction of water;
and the Obligation to Fulfil,
whereby the state is required to
adopt any additional measures
directed toward the realization
of these rights, such as providing
water and sanitation services
to
communities
currently
without them. In the U.S., this
would include the 13 percent
of Native American households
without access to clean water
and sanitation.
Lack of access to clean water
and sanitation is the number one
killer of children in our world.
A new report on diarrhea by
the World Health Organization
says that in the global South, a
child dies every three and a half
seconds of water-borne diseases.
In every case, if their parents
could pay for clean water, these
children would not be dying.
While the resolutions recognizing
the human right to water and
sanitation will not immediately
resolve this travesty, they do
set the stage for a plan of action
to address it. All countries now
have the obligation to ensure,

in a progressive manner and
within available resources, that
all of their people have access
to water and sanitation services
and special attention is to be
paid to the most vulnerable and
marginalized groups.
And while not specifically
prohibiting
private
water
delivery, the resolutions make it
clear that the state retains the
responsibility and authority to
provide these services and can
step in to prevent cut-offs to the
poor or the charging of exorbitant
water rates by for-profit
providers. Clearly, in recognizing
the human right to water and
sanitation, the United Nations has
endorsed the notion that water is
a public trust best delivered on a
not-for-profit basis.
The first anniversary of this
historic
General
Assembly
resolution presents an incredible
opportunity for groups and
communities around the world
suffering from water shortages,
unsafe drinking water and
poor or non-existent sanitation
services. It is not often that a new
right is recognized at the United
Nations, especially around an
issue as increasingly political and
urgent as the global water crisis.
The right to water and sanitation
are living documents waiting to
be used for transformational
change around the
world.

31

remu
nicip
aliza
tion
32

33
art by maia brown

the rising water

in bolivia and
latin america
WRITTEN BY marcela olivera
art by maia brown

We were tired of just resisting
with so little space left to
build. At some point in our
conversations we discovered
that we were exhausted, that all
of our energies were just going
to create more “blockades” to
privatization with no energy
left to create or imagine a
different way.
It was generally agreed that
the democratization of water
management was far from a reality
and that the strategies and political
opportunities for developing
management alternatives continued
to be elusive. The
experience
of
34 many participants

was that there was rarely
sufficient financing, or support by
governments, state institutions,
donors, and international organizations
for the implementation of
alternatives, despite many inspiring
examples.
The
movements’
evaluation of reclaimed utilities
in Bolivia and elsewhere was
that popular mobilization had
not met the challenges of
government resistance, institutional
corruption, and the technical
and financial weaknesses of the
existing structures.
So we created the Platform for
Public and Community Water
Systems (Plataforma APC).
Over the past decade, we have

removed bad governments,
kicked out corporations and
rejected many of the World
Bank and the International
Monetary Fund policies after
they stole our natural resources
and ruined an already crippled
economy with their “shock
therapy” prescriptions. We
also successfully waged the
historic “Cochabamba Water
War of 2000” that recovered
our water from an international
consortium. The people from
Uruguay won the first battle in
the polls introducing the right
to water in their constitution
and their example has spread
all over Latin America. Social

movements have mobilized and
have changed the political face of
this continent.
But the struggles haven’t
stopped.
Water
embraces
and strengthen other urgent
challenges that are happening
now across the continent. Water
is the one issue where everything
intersects; it crosses over into
political and economic issues in
every region and in every country.
People’s struggles over water are
about having their voices heard,
having better living conditions,
establishing their rights to basic
survival needs, and determining
their own political and economic
futures. That is what we call direct
democracy. In Bolivia, the water
rights struggle has given birth to a
political shift. Water has become
a symbol of our struggle for
political and economic autonomy
and for regaining our dignity.

The Challenges of Winning

In 2004, we recognized in the
South that there was more
North-South collaboration on
water rights than South-South
relations.
This inspired the
creation of the Red VIDA, an
interamerican water network
with founding members from
both
American
continents,
including the US and Canada.
It has been very important to
work with people across The
Americas who are redefining
the meaning of “cooperation”
as an equal collaboration among

water warriors with horizontal
rather than vertical decisionmaking and with our northern
colleagues respecting our regionspecific strategies for reaching
our mutual goals. It is largely out
of these years of collaboration
and
network-building
that
have emerged potential public
alternatives to privatization.

Public-Public and PublicCommunity Partnerships
We have found that the best way
to fight against the privatization
of water utilities is by improving
our water systems, making them
accountable to the population,
involving social movements in the
effort and having workers and the
community participating directly
in this work. One very important
alternative to privatization is to
form Public-Public Partnerships
to manage water systems.
In August 2008 we organized
a regional water seminar in
Cochabamba, with numerous
representatives from various
water movements in The
Americas. We got together
because, for a long time, we were
wondering about how to address
the challenges facing us. We
were tired of just resisting with
so little space left to build. At
some point in our conversations
we discovered that we were
exhausted, that all of our energies
were just going to create more
“blockades” to privatization
with no energy left to create or

imagine a different way.
It was generally agreed that
the democratization of water
management was far from a reality
and that the strategies and political
opportunities
for
developing
management alternatives continued
to be elusive. The experience of
many participants was that there
was rarely sufficient financing,
or support by governments,
state institutions, donors, and
international organizations for the
implementation of alternatives,
despite many inspiring examples. The
movements’ evaluation of reclaimed
utilities in Bolivia and elsewhere
was that popular mobilization
had not met the challenges of
government resistance, institutional
corruption, and the technical and
financial weaknesses of the existing
structures.
So we created the Platform for
Public and Community Water
Systems (Plataforma APC). We
recognized that public utilities
are not just the ones that belong
to the state or the municipalities,
but also the ones that are run by
the community; that we really do
not need the intervention of the
state’s bureaucracy in order to
create solidarity among us.
The Platform for Public and
Community Water Systems was
organized in 2009 as an association
of social and labor organizations,
public institutions,
and public water
utilities
that 35
are working to

strengthen and improve public
water systems in the Americas.
Its founding members include:
Engineers without Borders from
Cataluña, Spain; the Commissions
for the Defense of Water and
life from Bolivia and Uruguay;
Food and Water Watch from
the United States; Red VIDA
(an intercontinental network of
organizations in the Americas
working for the defense of water);
among other organizations and
water utilities working on water
issues in the Americas.
The purpose of the Platform
is to support and create publicpublic partnerships across The
Americas based on the principles
of public participation and
accountability,
transparency,
and direct participation of utility
workers and members of social
movements. The Platform is
currently supporting initiatives in
several countries in the Americas.
This comes at a time when
the World Bank and its sister
financial institutions, recognizing
their past failures in water
privatization, are seeking new
forms of such privatization under
the guise of public collaboration.
For example, they are promoting
Public-Private
Partnerships
in countries where they have
failed in the past. But the water
movements have
also
progressed
36 from resistance to

the construction of alternatives
and to just and equitable
propositions that serve the people
and preserve their right to water.
There is much yet to be done.
We have learned many lessons
from our past successes and
failures. We continue to join in
collaboration with our colleagues
around the world to find new
ways of guaranteeing that all
people look forward to life and a
planet that is sustainable.
In the midst of our fights to
control our own resources, a
very important development is
the nature of connections that
have begun between people.
This is one of the things that
we’re recovering from what
globalization has stolen. It’s not
just about the economic policies
that are being imposed on us; it’s
also about bringing us into contact
with one another. We’re building
alliances among ourselves that
respect the differences and the
diversity of experiences. It serves
to broaden our understanding
of the daily challenges we each
face while building a network of
support that keeps us strong.
The demands of the people for
access to water infrastructure
are part of the social demands
for new models of economic
development. Such development
must emphasize the transversal
character of water and the
challenge to construct new

Andean government-governed
relations. But the search for new
formulae to co-manage natural
resources, of which water is a
central component, between
popular organizations and the
state have only just begun.
The struggle over who controls
water is ongoing. What we’re
fighting for in Bolivia and Latin
America now is to put together
effective, participatory control
by the people over our social
resources of water, health and
education as an alternative to
private control. We know that
continued action in our streets
and our communities is essential
to social change. In Latin America,
that involves the politics of mass
mobilization combined with our
construction of autonomous
alternatives to old models.
Marcela Olivera is a water
commons organizer.
After
graduating from the Catholic
University
in
Cochabamba,
Bolivia, Marcela worked for
four years in Cochabamba as
the key international liaison
for the Coalition for the
Defense of Water and Life, the
organization that fought and
defeated water privatization in
Bolivia. Since 2004 she has been
developing and consolidating
an
inter-American
citizens’
network on water justice named
“Red VIDA”.

turning
the
tides:
new approaches and alternatives to privatization and commodification of water
There is an English saying that
“whiskey is for everyone but
water is for fighting over”. Indeed,
many countries have gone to war
for the control of water. This
life-giving resource has been
a major contributing cause to
many conflicts in the past: the
annexation of territories and
occupation of the West Bank, the
Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip
by Israel in 1967; the conflicts
between India and Pakistan over
their shared rivers for more than
a decade; and even during the
celebrated Camp David peace
agreement, Egyptian leaders
made threats to other countries
over the waters of the Nile, just
to name a few.
The 21st century, too, has
seen many battles for and
over water but of a different
kind. The most iconic example
is Bolivia’s water wars. In the
year 2000, tens of thousands of
people came out in the streets of
Cochabamba, Bolivia to clamor
for the cancellation of a very

WRITTEN BY mary ann manahan, august 2014
controversial service contract and commercialization of service
with a private water company, provision in the health, water,
Aguas del Turnari and return sanitation and electricity sectors,
SEMAPA, the city’s public water “Privatization is collapsing. We
company, to the state. Known have to be ready with what we
worldwide as the Cochabamba will replace it with.” The big
water wars, it provided the challenge for the movements is
world a picture of the impact of always to be one step ahead of the
privatization of water services privateers. When you have won
and commodification of water the struggle, successfully kicked
and of the struggles against this. out the corporate private sector,
It was a testimony that in the what do you do? What do you put
21st century, water had become in place? It is equally challenging,
one of the pivotal arenas around if not difficult, to sit down and
which social mobilizations and agree on a collective political
campaigns from the global South project, that is constructing and
to the global North were being building alternatives that are
ecologically
launched. Even in countries people-centered,
inclusive,
under crisis like Greece, popular sustainable,
democratic,
opposition to privatization is rife. participatory,
There is now a growing global equitable and transparent.
The upside is that the
“rethink
of
privatization”.
According to David MacDonald, movements for the defense
a Canadian professor at the of water and challenging of
University of Kingston and co- corporate power have risen to the
director of the Municipal Services occasion. Not only because the
Project (MSP), a global initiative movements need
that systematically explores to figure out how
alternatives to the privatization to provide water to 37

the poor and waterless but also
of the collective aspiration to
change the dominant corporate
water discourse and change the
‘flow’. The last five years saw
a new movement to reclaim,
redefine, and reconstruct public
options and paths for water
governance.

Revolutionizing water
management and governance

On March 2012, the Municipal
Services Project released the
Alternatives to Privatization:
Public Options for Essential
Services in the Global South,
the first global survey of its
kind that provide rigorous and
robust platform for evaluating
different alternatives, identifying
what make them successful and
allowing for comparisons across
regions and sectors.
The alternatives on water cover
examples such as innovative
models of public service delivery
in Tamil Nadu, India, which
are neither private nor oldstyle public, which is corrupt,
moribund and inefficient. Under
the engineers of the Change
Management Initiative of the
Tamil Nadu Water Board, a public
utility, water was supplied to 60
million people of Tamil Nadu and
irrigation
water
was delivered to
the farms of more

38

than one million families. This
was accompanied by attitudinal
changes, shifts in perspective and
transformation in the institutional
culture of water engineers using
a process-oriented participatory
training methodology based
on the traditional practice of
Koodam, a Tamil word that
means gathering, social space,
and consensus-building, implying
harmony, diversity, equality and
justice. The transformation in
the institutional culture of water
engineers, and the changes
in perspectives and relations
between local communities and
the Tamil Nadu water utility have
facilitated the implementation
of the joint management of
water resources between them.
Women in the communities took
a pro-active role in taking care of
their water sources, ensuring safe
and quality drinking water for
all members of the community.
The communities instituted their
own oversight and monitoring
systems to check the quality of
their water sources. These have
been strong positive tools for
improving public water service
delivery, caring for water sources
and
instituting
community
empowerment.
But the notions of the public
have also been expanded and
reclaimed by citizens and people
in the global South. In Colombia,

social participation has taken on
new forms. A national publiccommunity partnership led to
the strengthening of communal
aqueducts in the country. Led by
the water movement in Colombia,
communities were systematically
organized and provided with the
necessary technical, legal and
economic support to ensure that
good quality water is delivered to
both the rural and urban areas.
Women also played a vital role as
leaders in the strengthening and
structuring of the aqueducts.
Similarly, the global North also
provides innovative alternatives
to privatization. A new form of
public-community or upstreamdownstream partnerships in
New York City enabled farmers
to implement a new farming
program that is compatible
with a healthy watershed and
pure, quality water for the city.
Using the philosophy a “good
environment will produce good
water”, the New York City Water
and Sewerage System, a public
utility that supplies water to 9
million people, invested public
resources into the farmers’
watershed protection program,
which ensured not only clean
water to the city but also the
survival of small farming in the
rural area.
Another important global trend
now is the increasing number

of remunicipalization, i.e. the
reclaiming of privatized water
by the state. The publication,
“Remunicipalisation:
Putting
Back Water into Public Hands”,
edited by Martin Pigeon, David
McDonald, Olivier Hoedeman and
Satoko Kishimoto, emphasized
that “while remuncipalisation is
by no means simple, the cases
in Malaysia and the cities of
Paris, Dar es Saalam in Tanzania,
Buenos Aires in Argentina
and Hamilton, Canada prove
that public management can
offer services that the private
sector could never deliver”.
Remunicipalization,
according
to the authors, “is a credible,
realistic and attractive option
for citizens and policy makers
dissatisfied with privatisation”.
Further, it illustrates that
privatization is not irreversible.
Concretely, the return of
Paris’ water services to the
municipalities in January 2010
made a significant break from the
commercial dominance of the
French multinationals in the water
sector. By establishing the single
public operator, Eau de Paris,
France was able to restructure,
institute important reforms
and reclaim public interest.
According to Anne Le Strat, the
deputy mayor of Paris in charge
of water, some initial advantages
have already been observed as a

result of remunicipalization. One
is the big profits, an estimated
35 million Euros that the reform
has produced and re-invested in
water services; two, the lowered
cost of water per cubic meter
(at one Euro compared to the
260 percent increase with the
private company); and finally
new services are underway.
The changing tides also travel
to Asia. In Indonesia, civil society,
unions and Jakarta’s citizens
are calling for the termination
of the city’s contract with
Suez. Fourteen years after the
privatization of water in Jakarta,
Suez has failed to deliver its
promise of adequate water
supply through pipe connections
in the city. The residents had
resorted to over-extraction of
groundwater which created
new environmental problems.
A recent report of the Supreme
Audit Board of Indonesia (BPK)
concluded that the private
contract is non-transparent,
unfair and void. Jakarta is the
last big city in the global South
where Suez still has a concession
contract. The termination of this
contract, therefore, will have a
big political impact not only in
Jakarta but all over the world.

Overcoming the challenge of
the “Green Economy”

A clear message from these

just alternatives is the need to
have a clear, long-term vision
of/for water: the kind of public
water management that will
replace privatization, ensure the
fulfillment of the right to water
and sanitation and emphasize
that water is a ‘commons’. These
just alternatives also reconfigure
relationships between state and
society— putting an emphasis
on the importance of active
citizenship and social movements
from below.
However, there is still much to
be done in terms of articulating
and implementing progressive
models of water management
and governance. Learning from
the past and thinking of creative
ways to achieve the “future
we want” are but necessary. A
stable institutional, policy, legal
framework and political will are
needed for such alternatives to
develop and flourish.
Public-public partnerships and
public-community partnerships
are often vulnerable to the
manipulation of international
financial institutions, financing
and free trade agreements. The
corporate private sector will
always attempt to hijack not
only the language of civil society
and social movements but also
alternative proposals. Indeed,
despite the general
recognition that

39

privatization has failed to deliver
on its promise of adequate
and effective water services
provision, the corporate private
sector is resilient.
More recently, the “green
economy” proposal under the
Rio+20 discussions provide a
new encompassing threat. In
the “Green Economy” (GE),
water is treated as a natural
capital, an economic asset which
fundamentally puts a price on
all the dimensions, services
and functions of water. The GE
proposes that the instruments of
the markets are powerful tools
for conserving water, improving
water quality, ensuring efficiency
of water use and protecting water
itself. The GE therefore goes
beyond mere privatization and
commodification of water as a
public good and service. It sets the
stage for the creation of markets
where water and its ecosystem
functions (e.g. water purification
by pristine watersheds or
carbon sequestration of forests
and oceans) can be traded,
while the people’s rights and

common interests are ignored.
Water as the engine of the
“Green Economy” also pays
little attention to hydrological
inter-linkages and poses a grave
threat to the future of water and
ecosystems that rely on it.
To allow water and nature
to be controlled by the market
undermines the opportunities of
local people, communities and
states to protect these commons
as well as ensure equitable
access to water and sanitation
for all and to peacefully co-exist
with nature. Further, the “green
economy” potentially stands
to reverse the gains achieved
by social movements and
communities that are fighting
privatization.
The challenges maybe daunting
but for sure the movements for
the defense of water and Mother
Earth will be up to it. Rising to the
occasion, collective responses to
stop the GE and put alternative
visions and concrete proposals
by social movements are already
underway...

Mary Ann Manahan is a program officer with Focus on the Global South and has
a background in sociology and women and development studies. Based in Manila,
she works on Focus’ Reclaiming the Commons program.
She maybe reached at mbmanahan@focusweb.org

40

Other online sources
on water alternatives:
Blue Planet Project:

http://www.blueplanetproject.net/

Focus on the Global South:
www.focusweb.org
Food and Water Watch:

www.foodandwaterwatch.org

Municipal Services Project:

www.municipalservicesproject.org

Reclaiming Public Water:
www.waterjustice.org
Remunicipalisation Tracker:
www.remunicipalisation.org

Our Water Commons:

www.ourwatercommons.org

Transnational Institute:
www.tni.org

veolia
around the world
41

veolia in asia-pacific: a primer

five reasons why you should challenge veolia
by mary ann manahan, april 13, 2015
Mary Ann Manahan is a program officer with Focus
on the Global South-Philippines. She works on the
commons—land and water, social, gender, and
environmental justice issues. She maybe reached at
mbmanahan@focusweb.org.

1. Alarming trend: Veolia, a French
multinational, aims for global
domination in the fields of water, waste
management and energy
Veolia Environnement is a French multinational
company that provides a full range of environmental
management services in the fields of water,
waste management (collection, pipe systems
maintenance, urban cleaning services and wasteflow management, as well as waste treatment and
recycling), energy (except trading, production and
sale) and transportation in 67 countries covering
nearly 163 million people. Veolia was originally part
of Vivendi (previously Generale des Eaux), which
ran into serious financial and debt troubles after its
expansion into media, film, telecommunications,
music and book publishing.1
Dubbed as a water baron, Veolia is one of the
twin global giants that dominates the market in
water and wastewater management; the other is
Suez. In 2013, it reported €22.3 B in revenue, which
is 1.8% less than the previous year at constant
scope and exchange rates; while its financial debt
decreased to € 8.2 B compared to € 10.8B in 2012.
Veolia has varied clientele ranging from individuals
to municipalities, to industries and business. It
employs 202,800 workers around the world.2

42

Veolia Water remains the multinational’s major
operating segment contributing 45.8% (€10.2 B)
share toits overall revenue. Veolia Environmental
Services, which accounts for its waste and raw
materials, has a 36.2% (€8.1 B) share; Veolia Energy
with 16.8% (€3.7 B) share and other services, 1.2%
(€0.3 B).
Veolia Water operates 4,532 water production
plants and 3,442 wastewater treatment plants.
Its waste division has 570,000 business customers
(excluding industrial maintenance) and 719 wasteprocessing facilities. Finally, its energy segment
operates 770 local and district heating and cooling
networks, manages 163,000 energy systems and
4,300 industrial sites.
Europe is still Veolia’s traditional market, with
half of its business operating in France, UK,
Germany, Central and Eastern Europe, and the rest
of the continent. Outside of the region, Asia Pacific
(including Australia and New Zealand) makes up
9.1%, followed by North America (8.5%), Africa and
the Middle East (3.9%) and South America (1.1%).

2. Wolf in sheep’s clothing: Restructured
Veolia in 2011 and a New Veolia in 2012

Owing to the economic crisis in Italy, North Africa
and the US, Veolia suffered a net loss in its revenues.
For this reason, in 2011, the company announced
a corporate overhaul that included divestitures,
restructuring and a geographical scale back.
The result of its so-called transformation is a new
brand and slogan: “resourcing the world is what
we do.”3 The ‘transformed’ company capitalized
on the climate crisis, resource scarcity, new

1: Ann-Christin Sjolander Holland (2006), “The Water Business: Corporations versus People”, Zed Books, p. 15.
2: See Veolia 2013 Annual and Sustainability Report, http://www.veoliawaterst-sea.com/vwst/ressources/
files/1/37353,RADD-Veolia-2013_GB-1.pdf (Accessed April 1, 2015), pp.68-69.
3: Ibid, p. 8.

development challenges such as urbanization, as
well as emerging opportunities in food, mining,
oil and gas, toxic pollution clean-up and other raw
material recovery, and environmental services.
Employing a sustainable development coordinator,
its 2013 Annual and Sustainability Report can be
mistaken as any civil society or UN document in the
sense that the New Veolia talks about “designing
and implementing solutions aimed at improving
access to resources while at the same time
protecting and renewing those same resources.”4
This is a significant shift as the French multinational
now talks about (a) creating high added value,
(b) addressing environmental requirements,
economic and social concerns and (c) a circular
economy where water, wastewater and energy are
interconnected. Its Chief Operating Officer François
Bertreau further adds that “The new Veolia is more
customer-focused, better equipped to deal with the
specific characteristics of its markets and structured
to make even more progress.”5
The company’s new strategy is now three-fold:
target the most promising environmental markets,
i.e. those that are supported by strong demand
and solvent clients and where it has a distinctive
competitive edge; increase business with industrial
customers; and focus on the most dynamic
countries and regions.
It also streamlined its organization—integrated
its operations, established a single Veolia in each
country, and set up regional management teams.
A new department was created—Innovation and
Markets--which aims to create new business for
the New Veolia, for instance transforming a client’s
4: Ibid.
5: Ibid., p. 17.

waste into energy for another. In 2013, this New
Veolia won new contracts—half from the traditional
markets and the remaining half in emerging
economies and fast growing regions.
But behind Veolia’s media-savvy, politically
correct slogan and branding is the fact that the
company intends to profit from various interrelated
crises. It expects to win new contracts (which it has
already, in 2014, it secured more than €9 Billion in
new contracts) and strengthen its position in its
traditional markets.
In other words: new image, new sources of
profits.

3. Increasing presence--and therefore
revenues--in Asia-Pacific in the last 10 years
In the last 10 years, Veolia’s revenues in AsiaPacific has grown exponentially from €391 M to
€2.0261 these largely came from contracts in
the water sector. The growth is expected as the
French company has looked at China and Australia
as niche and main ‘markets’ outside of Europe.
It has contracts in Australia, Bangladesh, China,
India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines,
Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Sri Lanka and
Vietnam.
It employs 26,081 workers in the region (4,168
employees in Ocenia and 21,913 in Asia).
In terms of water management (drinking water
production, distribution, customer relations, and
wastewater treatment) in municipalities, Veolia has won
multi-million Euro contracts through various mechanisms
including build-operate-transfer (BOT) and PPPs.

43

Some examples:

Australia: Veolia has a
number of wastewater and water
supply contracts in the country.
It has been contracted by Sydney
Water, a public water company,
to design, build and operate a
sewage/wastewater treatment
facility in the Gerringong-Gerroa
area. In 2014, Veolia secured
a 10-year operation for the
production of drinking water and
wastewater treatment plants
worth more than €176M in
Hunter Water, Australia. Further,
it upgraded three wastewater
treatment plants at Port Kembla,
Wollongong in New South Wales,
where it designed, built and
operated the facilities.
China: In 1997, Veolia won its

first management contract in the
city of Tianjin. China has been
seen as a main market by Veolia in
terms of industrial and municipal
clientele. Overall, the company is
responsible for the water supply
of more than 17 municipalities,

44

autonomous regions and special
administrative regions including
Chengdu, Beijing, Nangchang,
Shenzen and Tianjin comprising
a population of about 43 million
people.6 In Shanghai-Pudong,
Shanghai’s business district
and a leading economic and
financial center in Asia and the
world, Veolia with the Pudong
Water Corporation are managing
Pudong’s entire water service for
4 million people under a PrivatePublic Partnership (PPP) contract
since 2005. The contract is a first
in China—with Veolia producing
1.5 million cubic meters of water
daily. It also provides water
supply in the four districts of
Lanzhou province, serving 2.4
million people.7

was awarded a 25-year PrivatePublic Partnership under the
Nagpur Municipal Corporation’s
ambitious Jawarhalal Nehru
National Urban Renewal Mission
to operate and maintain the city’s
entire water network.
On November 12, 2012, Veolia
entered into a joint venture with
Swach Environment and won a 15year contract to manage western
New Delhi’s drinking water,
production and distribution as
well as the management of the
water department. Earlier in May
of that year, Veolia was awarded
a 13-year contract by the city,
worth US$ 54 million, to build
and operate a new wastewater
treatment plant that will serve
New Delhi’s west zone.8

India: In 2012, Veolia won
three separate contracts—two
in the capital city of New Delhi
and one in the city of Nagpur,
state of Maharashtra. On March
2012, Orange City Water Limited
(OCWL), a joint venture between
Veolia and an Indian company,

Japan: Veolia has been active
in Japan since 2002. It manages
numerous contracts throughout
the country, which covers 3
million people for wastewater
services alone. Further, it has
water service management
contacts in the cities of Tokyo,

6: Globalization Monitor, An Open Letter to Veolia Environment S.A. regarding tap water pollution in Lanzhou., March 6, 214,
http://globalmon.org.hk/content/open-letter-veolia-environment-sa-regarding-tap-water-pollution-lanzhou (Accessed
April 2, 2015)
7: Ibid.
8: Polaris Institute and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, “Public Risks, Private Profits: Veolia Environnement, Profles of
Canada’s public-private partnership industry, June 2014, p. 14 http://cupe.ca/sites/cupe/files/veolia_e.pdf (Accessed April 2, 2015)

Kyoto (2012 contract) and Osaka,
where the company serves 25
million people or 20% of the
country’s population.9
On February 2012, three
contracts valued at more than US$
66 million were awarded to Veolia
Water. The company will provide
water and wastewater services
for the cities of Hiroshima, Kyoto
and Matsuyama. Water was
awarded operate and maintain
contracts to provide water and
wastewater services for the
cities of Hiroshima, Kyoto and
Matsuyama.10
But in 2013, Veolia was
awarded its first comprehensive
public service management
contract in the archipelago, in the
tourist town of Hakone known
for its hotsprings or okone. The
US$13 B, 5-year contract covers
the complete management of
water services in the districts
of Midono, Italy and Shinanogi,
where there are raw water
resources, treatment plants,
and distributions networks. As

the only multinational operating
under this model in Japan, Veolia
will produce 20,000m3 of water
each day, serve 6,200 people, and
operate 3 plants and 7 pumping
stations. The company sees this
as an opening to secure more
contracts in the prefecture where
9 million people are residing.

South Korea: Veolia has been
present in South Korea since
2001. On March 2001, Veolia
entered into a joint venture with
Hundai Construction in the state
of Chilgok and was awarded a
build-operate-transfer contract
for the operation of 2 existing
wastewater treatment plants
over the next 23 years as well
as the design, financing and
construction of a new plant.11
In December 2001, Veolia was
awarded by the municipality of
Incheon a 20-year build, operate
and transfer (BOT) contract to
run two wastewater treatment
plants in Songdo and Mansu
areas. Veolia Korea partnered
with Samsung Engineering (80-

20 partnership). This was the first
BOT contract by a South Korean
municipality in the water sector.
The construction of the two
plants took 30 months, which
have a total capacity of 100,000
cubic meters per day.
More recently, Veolia Korea
has won a 10-year contract to
supply steam to Hongwon Paper
Manufacturing, one of the major
paper and pulp companies in
the country. Amounting to €150
million, this is the first energy
services contract for Veolia in
South Korea.
These examples show how Asia
has become an important market
for Veolia. More than a decade
ago, the company has less water
business in the whole Asia-Pacific
than Africa and Latin America.
With the growth in the region and
more countries liberalizing their
water sectors, Veolia was able to
also grow its business, win more
contracts and therefore, expand
its presence.

9: Veolia 2013, pp. 30-31.
10: Polaris, p. 14.
11: David Hall, Violeta Corral, Emanuele Lobina, and Robin de la Motte, “Water privatisation and restructuring in AsiaPacific”, December 2004 (with minor corrections January 2005), London: Public Services International Research Unit, p. 8.

45

4.
Water
contract
controversies—price
hikes, mal-performance,
inefficiencies, tap water
pollution and corruption

Veolia Asia has suffered a number
of scandals and controversies in
its water operations in the region.
This can be summed up to price
hikes, irregularities in the bidding
process, bad performance in
terms of meeting promised
targets, inefficiencies, and tap
water pollution.
In 1995, the city of Adelaide
signed a US$ 1.5 billion contract
with United Water, a joint
venture of Veolia and Thames
Water. The contract handed over
the waterworks of the city to
the company. But irregularities
in the bidding process led to
government investigations and
parliamentary inquiry. Over the
next years of the company’s
operation, basic water rates rose
to 59% and workers lost their
jobs.12
In Nagpur, India, Orange City
Water Limited, a joint venture
between Veolia and Vishwaraj
Environment,
an
Indian
infrastructure company, has
failed to deliver on its promises of

infrastructure improvements and 24/7 uninterrupted water service.
Instead, “low-income residents have endured multiple project delays,
inequitable water distribution and service shutdowns.”13 Protests
from residents on contract violations and obligations and allegations
of corruption have compelled city officials to conduct investigations
and public hearings. Under OCWL’s operations, two-third of Nagpur’s
water was also lost with no clear explanations—that’s 432 million
liters each day, enough to provide for the basic water needs of 8.64
million people per day.14
In China, various cases of tap water pollution have been reported
by Chinese civil society groups such as Globalization Monitor in Hong
Kong. The company was involved in 13 water pollution case since 2007
in different cities around the country, including Shanghai, Beijing,
Qingdao, Zhuhai, Haikou, Urumqi and Lanzhou.15 In the northwestern
Chinese city of Lanzhou, province of Gansu, a high level of benzene
was found in tap water—200 mg per liter, which is 20 times higher
than the country’s national safety limits of 10 mg per liter. Later on,
local authorities attributed this to the crude oil leaking from Veolia’s
pipeline, which affected 2.4 million people. Similarly, Shanghai Pudong
Veolia Water Co. Ltd., ironically hailed as a success story, was fined
by the Chinese government for violating waste pollution prevention
measures and for discharging sewage beyond the allowed limit in the
first quarter of 2013. In Qingdao, Veolia’s Maidao sewage treatment
plant was found to contain excessive levels of fecal coliform similar to
the case of its plant in Haikou.16

in india, veolia favors profits and
abuse over the right to water
BY friends of the earth france, reprinted with permission

Behind the lofty words, old fears of water privatization die hard.
Today, Veolia would call itself the white knight finally bringing
water to the poor Indians, in the name of the “right to water” and
the “Millennium Development Goals.” But behind this revamping of
water privatization the same reality prevails: a reality comprised of
financial opacity, incredible promises left unfulfilled, price increases
of water, social conflicts, and the private monopolisation of public
funds. New methods of “social business” continue to hide the same
goal: get the poor used to have to pay more for their water.
In 2012, Veolia proudly announced its first global privatisation
contract for water in India, in the city of Nagpur (2.5 million
inhabitants). And just a few months later, the group invited a
delegation of French journalists to come celebrate its “success.”
But alas, at that same moment, the complaints had already started
to pile up against the private operator, due to delays in work
and ill-treatment by some of its local officials. Today, the private
management is a financial pit. Large sums of money have been
“spent” there without actually improving the situation. Riots have
taken place in certain areas against the Veolia officials, andlitigious
proceedings by the local authority against the private operator
have been announced.
Wherever the French water industry giant happens to be, such as
in Delhi or in the Karnataka area, the same complaints arise: vague
contracts favouring private businesses, increases in prices, and
diversion of water from the public sphere to profit the areas under
private management...
Official publicity presents India as a new El Dorado which will
allow the French multinational water companies to conquer new
markets all while tending to its own image. In reality, with the wave
of “public-private partnerships,” what is happening is the pillaging
of public funds where access to water for the poorest
is only a small margin of importance.
47

5. Cancellation of Contracts

Research groups such as Public Services International Research Unit
has documented at least two contracts that were cancelled in China
(Xian Water in 2002) and Malaysia (Selangor’s BOT contract to operate
26 water treatment plants). Two more proposals were abandoned—
one in Taiwan where negotiations on a water treatment plant failed
and in the Philippines (Cebu), where opposition by the local water
union compelled Veolia’s local partner to drop its unsolicited BOT
proposal.17

12: Ibid, p. 9.
13: Corporate Accountability International, “ Behind the World Bank’s Spin: Private Water Failures in Manila and Nagpur”, November 2014, pp.8-9.
14: Anjaya Anparthi, Two-thirds of Nagpur’s water supply lost, NMC remains clueless, May 20, 2014 http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/
city/nagpur/Two-thirds-of-Nagpurs-water-supply-lost-NMC-remains-clueless/articleshow/35353540.cms (Accessed April 2, 2014)
15: Yao Lan, “Veolia under fire for water quality in China”, April 21, 214, http://www.ecns.cn/cns-wire/2014/04-21/110421.
46
shtml (Accessed April 10, 2015)
16: Globalization Monitor, Open Letter
17: David Hall, et.al., , p.9.

photo via water.org

“Mr. Minister: The fault is not the worker’s, but rather the exploitative businessman”

photo via el ciudadano flickr

veolia in south america

privatization’s human cost: the crisis of bus drivers in santiago

photos courtesy of sarah khan

activists occupy veolia plant
in south durban, south africa

On March 15, 2014, Durban
activists occupied the Veolia Plant
in South Durban for about an
hour in honor of Israeli Apartheid
Week. IAW is held in over 250
cities internationally, and South
Africa plays a significant role in
the awareness campaign even
as the long battle for apartheidera victims in
48 South Africa is still
evident 20 years

into democracy.
In Durban specifically, in the
early 2000’s the Municipality
handed wastewater management
in the highly polluted area of South
Durban to the privately owned
French company. As in Palestine
and the U.S., Veolia profits at the
expense of the environment and
ratepayers. The French company
provides recycled wastewater to
industries in the South Durban

WRITTEN BY sarah khan
basin, themselves accused of
contributing to an alarmingly high
rate of cancers and respiratory
health issues in the area.
The ‘occupation’ on the
grounds of the Durban Veolia
plant set a precedent for more
action against the company.
Activists insist that Veolia has
been allowed to operate in South
Africa with great impunity and
mass action will be stepped up.

Early in the morning of June 2nd,
2014, Marco Antonio Cuadra
walked into a bus depot as he had
done for his preceding 25 years
as a bus driver in Chile’s sprawling
capital city.
This morning,
however, instead of setting out to
cover his routes across Santiago,
he doused himself in gasoline
and set himself on fire, shouting,
“This is for the workers! Let
it mark a precedent!” By the
time his coworkers grabbed fire
extinguishers from their buses
and doused the flames, 90% of his
body had been severely burned.
Waiting for an ambulance to
arrive, one of the drivers asked
Cuadra why he taken such drastic
action. The pained response (as
seen in an extremely graphic
video uploaded to Youtube): “For

our coworkers – because of how
[corporate managers] abuse us,
how they don’t pay our wages,
and how they fire union leaders,
but nobody complains. ¿Hasta
cuándo?”
Two weeks earlier, Veolia,
through its Transdev branch and
Chilean subsidiary Redbus, had
initiated the firing of Cuadra, a
leader of Redbus Union 2. The
company claimed he and the
treasurer of the Union, Luis Moya,
failed to fulfill “the obligations
expressly indicated in their work
contract.”
Other employees
dispute this claim and note that
Veolia/Redbus, a private operator
for the public Transantiago/
Metropolitan Public Transport
Directorate, initiated the firing
three days before employees

WRITTEN BY anson stewart
were set to present a new
collective bargaining plan.
The ambulance took Cuadra
to Santiago’s main hospital
where he underwent a series of
amputations and surgeries as his
organs progressively failed over
the coming weeks. His wife shared
her thoughts in an interview:
“He
was
distraught
because of all the injustice.
He was enraged when he saw
how [Veolia/Redbus] made
the older drivers, and the
workers in general, work very
late, how the company didn’t
respect them, and how they
had to use diapers because
of the lack of bathrooms and
the length of the
routes… I pray
to God that he’ll 49

come through this so he can tell me what really
happened. What I think now, based on what
I saw and what his coworkers have told me,
is that it was a result of utter frustration, the
most extreme frustration that a human being
can take.”
On June 27, twentyfive days after his act
of desperation, Cuadra
died from his injuries.
After
Cuadra’s
death, workers aligned
with the Coordinadora
de Trabajadores del
Transantiago
called
for a national strike in
July and complained,
“From north to south,
we need to know
what is happening
with
union-busting
practices. Government
officials barely wait to
announce things that
favor
businessmen,
but they wait an
eternity
to
give
an answer to the
workers.” A pro-labor
blog editorialized, “The
sacrifice of comrade
Marco Cuadra is a A memorial for Marco Cuadra
scream
suffocated
by the terrible silencing of a labor law created in
the dictatorship, which has been tied to the unjust
treatment of thousands of workers during more
than 30 years.”
Indeed, before trying to understand Cuadra’s
death, it is important to understand
the history that led to it.
How has the privatization of transit
50
in Santiago evolved historically? And

are the problems that have emerged from this
history of privatization unique to Chile?

The Road to Transantiago

Though Transantiago’s operations began with
a “traumatic” restructuring of the Santiago
transport system from
cartels of bus owners
to a regional trunk-andfeeder system in 2007,
the driving economic
rationale behind it
goes back as far as the
1950s and the Chicago
Boys. The Pinochet
dictatorship applied
their
market-based
model across society,
which, in the words
of Professor Javier
Couso,
“completely
undermined
the
concept of citizenship
by transforming social
rights (like education,
health care, and social
security) into individual
problems.”
Though
Pinochet
transferred power to a
democratically-elected
president in 1990,
in Central Santiago
Chile’s
constitution
kept in place many
of the dictatorship’s pro-market and anti-labor
policies. Since then, in fact, the percentage of
workers represented in collective bargaining has
been cut in half, falling to 8%, and employers are
able to replace striking workers without restriction.
Couso summarizes the harsh reality of a neoliberal
motto: “market solutions to public problems”:
In contrast with the adherence of technocratic
elites to neoliberal policies, regular Chileans

are deeply uneasy about
the economic model. As
early as 1998, a series of
studies undertaken by the
United Nations Development
Program (UNDP) reported
widespread
discontent
among
the
general
population towards the
radical brand of neoliberalism
prevalent in the country. The
problem, however, was that
the failure of the model was
experienced by individuals
in isolation, which often led
them to blame themselves
for their failure to make ends
meet rather than faulting
the rules of the game. Thus,
a typical Chilean response
when asked about the state
of the nation was: “The
country is doing well, but I
am not.”
The government’s zeal for
neoliberal ideology helps explain
why, even in the administration
of President Lagos of the Socialist
Party, Transantiago had no public
bus lines.
It was within this privatization
framework that, Lagos’s Minister
of Transport, Javier Etcheberry
was tasked with reforming
Santiago’s cartels of private bus
owners in the early 2000s. He
actively tried to recruit foreign
private operators, recalling,
“What I explained to foreign firms
was our long term vision. While
they could start by operating only
two trunk units, contracts for

the other business units would
have a short duration and soon
be re-tendered, and thus foreign
companies were told that they
could eventually expand their
presence.”

Courting Veolia

In France, Minister Etcheberry
piqued the interest of Veolia,
which had initiated waste
management operations in Chile
in the 1990s and owned part of
one of the operating companies
of Bogotá’s Transmilenio bus
rapid transit system. In 2004,
they agreed to participate in the
round of major tendering for
Transantiago, but were outbid
in their pursuit of Transantiago’s
“crown jewel” trunk units
by firms with strong political
connections and Colombian
and Korean capital, leaving
the French company “furious”
(according to an interview with
Minister Etcheberry in this
dissertation). They kept close
tabs on Transantiago, however,
and in 2006 when the owner of
the local operator that had won
the pilot feeder bid decided to
pull out, Veolia bought them
out. Red Bus was reportedly
purchased by its previous owner
for $9 million and sold to Veolia
for only $1 million.
The reputation of Redbus under
Veolia was initially solid. In 2009,
the national federation of drivers’
unions voted it “best company in
the country for its social climate.”

Veolia’s service was also highly
regarded through operational
indicators
and
passenger
satisfaction surveys, leading
the government to award them
the contract for an additional
feeder zone in the 2011 round of
retendering. These new threeyear contracts were worth 300
million euros, allowing Veolia/
Redbus to expand to 10% of the
total Transantiago bus fleet with
2,300 employees.

The Romance Sours

After
Veolia/Redbus
was
awarded the extended contracts,
service quality deteriorated
markedly.
By August 2012,
passengers were fed up. One
afternoon, people gathered at
a stop waiting for Route C10,
which was scheduled to arrive
every five minutes, waited
four times longer, then began
spontaneously protesting in the
streets.
The president of the Transport
Commission, a conservative
legislator
named
Gustavo
Hasbún, diagnosed the protest
by the Route C10 passengers as
follows:
This is the second protest
emerging from a problem
with Redbus. During this
year they began to take buses
from other zones to solve
problems whenever people
complained. When
people
stopped
c o m p l a i n i n g , 51

obviously Redbus returned the buses that they
had been using to supplement service in the
areas of complaint, and the complaints arose
again. So we have here a structural problem
– there is a problem in the business model of
the company and clearly drastic means must
be taken. The people cannot keep bearing
the cost…
He called for the termination of Veolia/Redbus’s
contracts after the riders’ spontaneous protest:
“It is not enough to just charge fines to the
companies when they already have them
internalized in their costs. We need to be
much harsher and, in this case… I believe that
it’s appropriate for the Minister of Transport
to evaluate terminating Redbus’s contracts,
because this situation is clearly affecting the
quality of life of many middle- and workingclass Chileans.”
Since winning the expanded contract, Veolia/
Redbus’s relationships soured not only with riders,
but also with drivers. The company was fined by
the Chilean government twice in 2012 for illegal
anti-labor practices. Yet drivers felt Veolia saw
these fines as merely a cost of doing business, and
many of their other grievances went unaddressed.
In particular, employees accused Redbus of
violating multiple national labor and health
laws, through illegal contract modifications,
unpaid overtime, absence of a workplace safety
and training committee, insufficient timeclocks
and payroll tracking, lack of provision for water
and restroom facilities, deficient vacation time,
erroneous paychecks, inadequate communication
of benefits, and threats of frame-up terrorism
charges. Finally, in November 2012, when Veolia
used threats against workers in an attempt to
force them into signing contracts with major
concessions, the workers went on
strike, explaining:
52 “We have seen no response from
the formal process where we have

filed complaints, and in which demands were
outlined in response to labor infractions, so the
workers themselves protested spontaneously,
without any leadership, because they are
tired of the abuses and labor violations that
Redbus perpetrates… We lack only chains
to be enslaved.”
The Minister of Transport for the conservative
Piñera administration, while acknowledging that
the strike was technically illegal, called Veolia/
Redbus responsible and demanded that they reach
an agreement with the workers: “[The drivers] have
fulfilled their role very well and very responsibly in
the past, so of course the companies must reach an
agreement with them.”
After five days of striking, a march with allied
groups to the Transport Ministry Offices, and
intense negotiations, the company agreed to
back down from their demands and reinstate the
workers who had gone on strike.
After negotiating an end to the 2012 strike, Veolia/
Redbus continued to engage in tactics both hidden
from public view and of questionable legality. At
the end of 2013, the government allowed operators
to increase the prices they charged for service in an
unpublicized round of renegotations, since many of
them claimed to be near bankruptcy (symptomatic
of the lowball bids many made). Veolia extracted
one of the highest increases in the fee it charged
the government – about 40 pesos for each
boarding, amounting to millions of dollars annually.
So while bragging of profitability to investors, the
company was begging to siphon more money from
Transantiago, and ultimately, riders.
Even more concerning are the alleged ties
between Veolia/Redbus’s management and Luis
Campos Salas, who falsified documents for probusiness unions. Twenty-four such unions were shut
down by the Chilean government in response to an
investigative report aired in September 2014. The
report alleges that Luis Campos collaborated with
Redbus management to suppress labor complaints

while siphoning union dues
into his personal account. As a
national union federation leader,
he recruited Marco Cuadra to the
Redbus union, only to undermine
and silence union grievances.
Such was the malfeasance
against which Marco
Cuadra made his last
stand. Advocates
of privatization
often claim that
establishing
a
profit
motive
will
encourage
efficiency
and
innovation
for
the benefit of the
general public.
In
the case of Veolia/
Redbus in Santiago,
it seems to have
instead encouraged
unethical and

illegal practices that harmed both
workers and the general public.
Some might think that these
egregious examples are unique to
the history and neoliberal system
of Chile. But a review of Veolia’s
record in other countries shows a
strikingly similar pattern
of
profit-driven
abuses of labor
and the public
trust.

Veolia At
Home

Privatization
is increasing in
United
States
transit systems;
36% of peak hour
transit vehicles in
the United States
were operated under
contracts in 2010,
compared
to
26% in 2002.
Politicians
advocating

austerity bring in private operators
to reduce compensation for
public employees; private transit
drivers receive, on average, 52%
less in compensation than public
ones. In addition to paying
lower wages and seeking less
experienced drivers, private
contractors also have incentives
to reduce maintenance and
training costs; this may explain
crash rates that are 70% higher,
and breakdown rates that
are 36% higher, than publicly
operated transit.
Veolia is a broad environmental
services conglomerate, and
it has stakes in multiple
transport operators, including
Transdev. Veolia/Transdev employs
approximately 16,000 people in
North America.
Veolia and it subsidiaries’
violations of ethics and fair labor
practices in the United States
are legion.
In Phoenix and Tempe, the
National Labor Relations Board
found Veolia to have engaged
in “‘regressive, bad-faith,
and surface bargaining,’
and numerous other
unfair labor practices”
leading up to a 2012
strike. A conflict of
interest
Phoenix’s

involving
mayor

53

also prompted a Federal Transit
Administration inquiry.
In Las Vegas, Veolia was
ordered to stop “interfering
with, restraining or coercing its
employees in the exercise of their
right to self-organization” in 2012.
San Francisco’s BART brought a
Veolia executive into negotiations
that eventually resulted in a 2013
strike during which two track
workers died; a subsequent report
commissioned by BART’s own
board concluded, “Many see the
hiring and promotion of [Veolia’s]
Tom Hock to lead negotiations
as a mistake. While some who
were in bargaining stated that
he was very competent and
professional, others said his style
was arrogant, dismissive, and he
often appeared disengaged.”
In
Massachusetts,
Veolia
had a stake in a commuter rail
operator that took advantage
of questionable fine reductions
and double billing uncovered

54

by the state auditor in 2011.
Veolia subsequently lost its bid
to renew this operating contract,
but it did win a contract to run
Boston’s school buses starting
in 2013. Relations with the
union quickly devolved, leading
to arrests on trumped up
charges. And in 2014, a former
Veolia/Transdev executive was
appointed to head Boston Public
School’s transportation division;
the apparent conflict of interest
gives little reason to hope for
enforcing the contract for the
benefit of students, families, and
the public.
With various tentacles around
the world, Veolia profits from
abusing workers’ rights. Perhaps
they are not experts in transit
or sustainable mobility, but in
implementing the mandates
of the recent austerity craze,
squeezing workers and service
while siphoning away profits.

Winter in Santiago

As June’s cold weather
advanced in Santiago, a union
publication declared it would
be “another harsh winter for
workers” in Chile. Partly in
response to Marco Cuadra’s
death, unions announced a oneday protest on July 3 as well as a
possible strike of 3,000 workers
across Transantiago’s different
private operators if coordinated
collective bargaining fell through.
A leader announced, “Together
with the inter-union working
group and Redbus, which is one
of the companies which has the
greatest quantity of anti-union
practices and worker abuses,
we want to see together what
particular means for the security
of workers we can approach.”
Despite
reported
police
intimidation and management
threats at bus depots on the
morning of the protest in memory
of Cuadra, hundreds took to the

streets. Part of the protest’s
message was, “It is the profit
of businessmen through public
transit that generates the transit
system’s crisis. In this crisis of
Transantiago, along with the
passengers, we the workers are
the victims of profit. But we are
portrayed as the movie villains,
the visible face of the poor
quality of the transit system.”
On September 29th, 2014, a
driver for another Transantiago
contractor,
Juan
Cerda,
committed suicide. He had been
prescribed anti-depressants but
“pressured to return to work”
despite the diagnosis, violating
Chilean law. A union leader
lamented, “We have had various
cases of this practice, which puts
the driver and passengers at
risk. Although the case of Marco
Cuadra is well known, the truth
is that since [2007] we have had
approximately 30 suicides.”

¿Hasta Cuándo?

The day after Cerda’s death, a
federation of Transantiago unions
put out the following statement:
Transantiago
is
the
creation of the state and the
political class to favor the
businessman, facilitating his
enrichment with money from
all Chileans. This includes
the dealmaking behind
closed doors, the lack of
enforcement, and the token
fines. The question is, who
investigates the different
administrations that have
made the contracts and
overlook enforcement? It
is not enough to enforce
contracts today to calm the
waters, so that tomorrow
everything will continue the
same…The
businessmen
seek every means possible
to prevent the workers from
organizing and fighting for
our rights.

A week later, on October 6,
hundreds of workers for operator
Subus went on strike. The crisis
erupts again.
With Transantiago operating
contracts expiring soon, and
workers starting to organize
across
different
operating
companies, perhaps there is
hope for drivers. They demand
public operations of the public
transit system, and as riders
grow increasingly tired of
abysmal service levels, such
public operation may soon be
politically feasible.
But in the United States, where
a mindset of austerity takes a
deeper hold and privatization is
on the rise, Marco Cuadra may
be a harbinger of things to come.

55

boston school bus drivers vs. veolia

steelworkers’ local refuses to bow to union-busting moves

In this era of union-busting
and concessions, school bus
drivers are bucking the trend
as they resist a wrecking
operation conducted by Veolia/
Transdev and Boston’s political
establishment.
United Steelworkers Local 8751
represents about 800 school
bus drivers, the majority Black,
Latino, Asian, and immigrant,
including from Haiti and Cape
Verde. Founded in 1977 during
the desegregation of Boston’s
schools, the union has a history
of social justice unionism,
speaking out against racism,
offering aid to striking workers,
and international solidarity with
struggles from South Africa to
Palestine. “We are a fighting
union,” said member Georgia
Scott, describing her local.
But in 2013, the drivers found
themselves calling for aid in
defending their union against
Veolia, after public officials
awarded the French-based
conglomerate the contract for
Boston’s school bus service.
Veolia is well-known for its
record of helping governments
impose “austerity,” — laying
off workers and
slashing services.
56 It is the top

WRITTEN BY linda averill, reprint from socialism.com
privatizer of water globally, and
specializes in privatizing other
services and resources, including
transportation.
Boston’s switch of contractors
came in June 2013, after
members had won better pay
and benefits, and against a back
drop of budget cuts, targeting
the city’s school system, that are
hitting communities of color the
hardest. Forcing middle school
students off yellow school buses
and on to public transit is one
way the district is saving millions
photo via boston globe, wendy maeda
of dollars, at the expense of The drivers’ union, over 90 percent
student safety.
people of color, recently endorsed
Veolia declares war. Soon after Black Lives Matter in Boston, saying,
its take-over, Veolia management “USW 8751 is proudly continuing our
demanded all drivers re-apply for legacy of standing rock-solid against
their jobs, even though many racism.” Above: A Dorchester, Mass.,
had driven for the district for support rally.
decades. Disputes also erupted
Fed-up, drivers demanded a work
over
unrealistic
schedules,
site meeting with management —
wage theft, disability benefits,
a right outlined in their contract.
grievance rights, discipline, and
Rather than meet, Veolia bosses
more. As Scott summarized,
called police, locked the gates,
“Veolia has violated our contract
and stranded thousands of
from day one.”
students. Anti-labor news outlets
Within four months, Veolia
quickly painted Veolia’s lockout
provoked 18 unfair labor practice
as a “wildcat strike” to turn
charges and dozens of grievances.
parents against the union. Four
In October 2013, management
leaders — Steve Gillis, Andre
again demanded that all drivers
Francois, Garry Murchison, and
fill out job applications, after the
Steve Kirschbaum — were fired,
issue was supposedly settled.
and the local was slandered as

out of control with a “lunatic
fringe” at the helm.
Confronted by this vicious
assault,
the
embattled
membership
initiated
a
grass-roots campaign to gain
community and labor support.
This included protests, and
meetings to press Veolia to
reinstate their fired leaders and
honor the contract.
In June 2014, when the
agreement
expired,
Veolia
escalated efforts to criminalize
union activity, securing trumpedup felony charges against
Kirschbaum after a work site
meeting and rally.
Veolia targeted Kirschbaum, a
well-known socialist active with
Workers World Party, founding
member of the union, grievance
chair, and a respected leader
within the local. Clearly the
company hoped to whip up antiradical sentiment and put the
union in disarray. Instead, drivers
and community supporters
organized rallies and courtroom
actions in Kirschbaum’s defense,
and launched a political battle
to expose Veolia’s red-baiting
smear tactics.

In March 2015, Kirschbaum
was cleared of all charges after a
jury deliberated for less than an
hour. Afterwards he said, “We are
hoping to use the momentum of
our ‘Not Guilty’ victory against
the Veolia/Boston Police antiunion frame up to build toward
victory on all fronts — rehiring the
four and a just contract. The rank
and file are exuberant and feeling
the strength of their unity.”
Members know their fight goes
deeper, and that Veolia boosts
profits by smashing unions and
pushing privatization.
In Detroit, Veolia just won a
“consultant” contract to assist
the Motor City in cutting its public
water and sewerage department.
This is the first step on the path
to privatization.
Across the U.S., Veolia has
pushed union busting of bus
drivers in Arizona, Florida,
Colorado, and other states. In
Seattle, Wash., after winning a
contract to provide transit service
for people with disabilities, the
corporation fired the entire
workforce that was represented
by Amalgamated Transit Union
Local 587. As in Boston, they

demanded all drivers re-apply for
their jobs. Unfortunately, unlike
in Boston, the union didn’t stop
this anti-labor attack.
In several cities, “Stop Veolia”
groups have formed to protest
the company’s role in building and
operating the Jerusalem light rail,
which runs through Palestinian
East Jerusalem and services
illegal Jewish settlements.
One day stronger. In confronting
this Goliath, the drivers are
reaching out to other unions
and movements, educating the
community about Veolia’s role in
pushing austerity at the behest
of ruling elites, and aiding racist
segregation, whether it is in Israel
or Boston.
To that end, they are involved
in the Black Lives Matter
movement and coalitions to
defend public education, to name
a few endeavors. They are also
organizing pressure on Mayor
Tom Walsh to direct Veolia to
rehire the local’s fired leaders.
At a meeting in December
2014,
members
voted
unanimously to make amnesty
for its fired leaders a condition of
contract ratification.

You can help. Call Mayor Walsh at 617-635-4500 or e-mail mayor@boston.gov to support the
drivers’ demands. For updates, information on how to show solidarity, and sample resolutions, go
to www.bostonschoolbus5.org.
Contact Averill, a unionized Seattle bus driver, at avlinda587@gmail.com.

57

Det
roit
58

59

people’s water board statement

on creation of regional water authority

wednesday, september 10, 2014 - permission to reprint
Water is life. The People’s Water Board advocates for access, protection, and conservation of water. We
believe water is a human right and all people should have access to clean and affordable water. Water is a
commons that should be held in the public trust free of privatization. The People’s Water Board promotes
awareness of the interconnectedness of all people and resources.
People’s Water Board Coalition Calls Regional Water Authority an Assault Against Democracy and the
Human Right to Water
Community calls for protection and representation for all region’s residents
Detroit, Mich. – The People’s Water Board decried Mayor Mike Duggan’s plan to create a regional water
authority as undemocratic and a threat to the human right to water for many in the region. We have access
to the largest body of surface freshwater in the world, so it would seem abundance and access should
not be an issue. However the manner of governing this valuable resource as responsible environmental
stewards for the world has left many communities without trust.
The deal was negotiated behind closed doors without any input from the public and is the next step on the
pathway to privatization. It takes away the rights of both the Detroit City Council and the citizens of Detroit
to have input on big decisions impacting the system.
“Suburban customers should not be fooled into thinking that this deal gives them more control or influence
over the water system,” said Lynna Kaucheck of the People’s Water Board. “The new authority will be
made up of unelected officials who are accountable to no one. People need to know that this deal doesn’t
take privatization off the table.”
Veolia Water North America, the largest private water company operating in the United States, has
been hired to evaluate the management of the system and clearly has a vested interest in privatization.
Privatization typically results in skyrocketing rates, decreased service quality and the loss of jobs. In fact,
corporate profits, dividends and income taxes can add 20 to 30 percent to operation and maintenance
costs, and a lack of competition and poor negotiation skills can leave local governments with expensive
contracts. In the Great Lakes region, large private water companies charge more than twice as much as
cities charge for household water service. This is not the solution for Detroit or the region.
“The regionalization plan is unacceptable. We need a system that is accountable and transparent and that
works for all its customers,” said Tawana Petty of the People’s Water Board. “We want an elected board
of water commissioners. We want to reduce costs for the region through bulk purchasing and resource
sharing. And we want to implement the Affordability Plan as passed by Detroit City Council in 2005. Detroit
and suburban leaders need to protect residents and democratize the system.”
The People’s Water Board advocates for access, protection, and conservation of water, and promotes
awareness of the interconnectedness of all people and resources.
The People’s Water Board includes: AFSCME Local 207, Baxter’s Beat Back the Bullies Brigade, Detroit
Black Community Food Security Network, Detroit Green Party, Detroit People’s Platform, Detroiters
Resisting Emergency Management, East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Food & Water Watch,
FLOW, Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit, Matrix Theater, Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, Michigan
Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Rosa
60 and Raymond Parks Institute, Sierra Club, Sisters of Mercy, Voices for Earth Justice and We
the People of Detroit.

fight back plan

61

detroit’s water: behind the bankruptcy crisis
the water crisis in detroit is an american emergency

written by khaled a beydoun, original publisher: al jazeera, july 27 2014, permission to reprint
“When it comes to peoples safety,
money wins out of every time”
-Gil Scott Heron,
“We Almost Lost Detroit”
I am a Detroiter. I grew up in
the Warrendale neighbourhood,
on the city’s westside. It is
an enclave that sits at the
intersection of Detroit’s majority
African-American
population
and its thriving Arab-American
community. These walls that
separate residents of Detroit
along racial and economic
lines may soon be washed
away and replaced by an even
more primordial divide - access
to water.

Since the 1967 race rebellions, Detroit has occupied the role of municipal
pariahinthenationalmedia.Ithasbecomeacautionarytale,deployedtowarn
Americans about the horrors of crime and poverty, racial segregation and
municipal bankruptcy.
As a result, national media has created a sense of collective pity
for Detroit by illustrating “the post-apocalyptic hellhole” as an
aberration, a blight on the map, cut off from the “prototypical”
American experience. Much of the national coverage focusing
on Detroit’s most recent trial - the water crisis - unsurprisingly
flows in this direction.
Missing from the flood of stories about Detroit’s decline, abject
poverty, and rustbelt apocalyptic narratives coming from outside the
city is an indigenous story. A story about racial isolation, the politics
of municipal shrinkage, a proud people fractured from the rest of
their state and country, and a proliferating population of Americans
denied the most fundamental human right: access to water. Until this
crisis is reframed as an American human rights emergency, the same
song of “money win[ing] out every time” will imminently jeopardise
water access for Americans near and far from Detroit.

Behind the water crisis

Thousands of Detroit residents are currently living without water. The
Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) announced in March,
and subsequently commenced, plans to cut off water for “homes
with delinquent bills” at a rate of 3,000 homes per week.
It recently tweeted, “If you’re stealing water, we’re
coming after you”.
By summer’s end, it is projected
that DWSD will cut off the water
services of 150,000 residents
in total. Community
leaders believe that
as many as

62

300,000 Detroiters could be cut
off from water access within a
year.
These figures are staggering,
particularly in light of the city’s
diminishing population of 700,000
residents. Therefore, according to
projections, as much as 45 percent
of the city’s residents could be
without water in the near future.
Although a 15-day moratorium
was enacted on July 21, the cutoffs
will be sure to continue without
federal intervention.

‘Pay your bills’

“Pay your bills” has become a
common refrain from this crisis.
Yet, 38 percent of Detroiters
live below the poverty line,
unemployment
and
underemployment is pervasive, while
the price of water has skyrocketed
120 percent in 10 years. A
diminished public transportation
system exacerbates poverty and
spatial segregation, and limits
residents from finding - and
keeping - gainful employment
beyond city limits.
The eastside of Detroit, which
faces aggressive mass water
cutoffs, highlights the cascade of
challenges Detroit residents have
to cope with while living without
water. For the rapidly rising
number of Detroiters cutoff from
water on the city’s east end,
purchasing water off the shelves
is the only option.
Yet, there are no grocery stores
on the eastside, gas stations and
liquor stores hold geographic
monopolies
over
essential
products. Disconnected, spatially

segregated, and overwhelmingly
poor, residents are compelled to
consume what these businesses
offer. With water becoming more
scarce on merchant shelves, they
have to live with little drinking,
cooking and bathing water.
Living in an urban water desert,
residents of the eastside are
already facing price gouging by
local businesses. Some have had
to resort to stealing water from
the few operable fire hydrants,
homes, and neighbourhood
businesses in order to survive
water shortages.

New world water

In spirit and statistics, Detroit is
still a black city. African-Americans
comprise 83 percent of the city’s
population. Therefore, the vast
majority of those affected by the
water cutoffs, and the perils they
create, are black Detroiters.
The acute and disproportionate
impact on black residents may
appear to be driven solely by
economic factors.
However, a native testimony
illuminates that racism, and a
vision for the city based partly on
racial reformation, pumps current
water politics. The aggressive
water cutoffs may be part of the
broader plan to shrink the physical
size of the city, and compel
residents of under-populated and
“undesirable” sections of the city,
such as the eastside, to move.
The water crisis stops at 8 Mile the iconised thoroughfare dividing
black from white, wealthy from
working class. Yet water still flows
to many businesses located within

khaled a beydoun is the critical race studies teaching fellow at the ucla school of law

the city that generally serve white
and middle class patrons.
Some of these businesses,
including Detroit’s flagship golf
course, Ford Field and Joe Louis
Arena, home to the City’s NFL
and NHL franchises, have not
paid their water bills either, but
they still receive water.
Not far from these golf courses
and stadiums are sights of Black
and Brown Detroiters walking
down major avenues, carrying
water tanks atop their shoulders.
These
images,
generally
associated with life in war-torn
and “distant, disenfranchised
lands”, are becoming more and
more common in Detroit.
While largely framed as a
symptom of Detroit’s impending
death on the national media
front, the water crisis is an
unequivocally
American
emergency. Although residents of
a city maligned as disconnected
and deviant - Detroiters are still
American citizens, guaranteed
water provision by the United
Nations and human rights law.
Washington DC, while quick to
respond to foreign concerns, has
yet to act on Detroit.
Detroit, and its water crisis,
is far closer than we all think.
Therefore, pushing Washington
DC to act in the interests of
Detroiters living without water
right now will create the basis
for government action when
residents of New York and
California and elsewhere are also
threatened by
a water crisis.

63

moving beyond solidarity

written by tawana petty, november 8 2014, permission to reprint

Tawana Petty, a.k.a. Honeycomb, is a mother, organizer, author, poet.

I had the honor of speaking
to and performing for 500
students, instructors, activists
and organizers from around the
globe at the 4th Annual National
Students for Justice in Palestine
(#NSJP2014) Conference at Tufts
University in Boston, Mass,
October 24-26. I struggle with
calling it a conference because
it was unlike any organized
gathering I had experienced to
date. I learned to say the South
African version of “Power to the
People” through call “Amandla!”
and
response
“Awethu,”
witnessed
the
beautiful
Palestinian dabke dance with
several hundred people from
across the globe and performed
a poem dedicated to my beloved
Detroit city, as others celebrated
their home cities and countries. It
was a deeply spiritual experience.
I was invited to Tufts to speak
on the Environmental Justice
panel focused on water. The
delegations for this particular
workshop represented Detroit,

64

Palestine and Hawaii. It was
encouraging to see the groups of
young people who were present
for our talk, especially those
representing SJPs across the
globe, the Dream Defenders and
Black Youth Project (BYP100), all of
which are youth led organizations
I have been following and whose
work I admire.
The Hawaiian delegation spoke
about the atrocities they were
facing with regard to water and
land insecurity, and the women
who are paraded around for
show with coconut bras on
for touristic pleasure and the
extreme militarism which keeps
the natives muted and in check
during the unwanted infiltration
of their homeland. While
listening to them, I couldn’t
help but to think about the
thriving Midttown — still Cass
Corridor to me — back home,
located smack in the middle of
120,000 proposed water shutoffs, 80,000 tax foreclosures,
pension cuts, school closings and

demolitions, patrolled by private
security teams and heavy police
presence who have consistently
shuffled away poor folks so
that spectators and new, more
acceptable residents could feel at
ease. It was like we were kindred
spirits in our struggles to maintain
our dignity and humanity.
Our workshop was wrapped
up by a Palestinian delegate
who painted a vivid picture
of the inhumane treatment
of Palestinians who are also
suffering from water and land
insecurity in Israeli occupied
Palestine. His weaving together
of the Veolia water connection
from Palestine to Detroit, which
I had briefly referenced in my
presentation was masterful. He
went on to describe the transit
discrimination Palestinians were
facing, which is reminiscent of
the transportation woes faced
by Detroiters who not only
have intentional limited access
to suburban cities through our
current transit system, but who

will soon watch a nearly $200 million dollar M-1
rail circle through their neighborhoods, fuel up and
turn around, leaving them behind, as they await a
public bus which may not come.
When you live in a predominately Black city where
resources are nearly extinct for poor residents, you
can’t help but to feel a sort of solidarity with other
oppressed groups. However, this experience was
unique. It was about moving beyond solidarity. It
was about moving beyond borders. It was about
transnational movement building which respects
and uplifts the work of people who live in the
oppressed communities, yet expands past social
media profile pics and hashtags as referenced by
Linda Tigani of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
(MXGM). It was about recognizing when crisis
jumping to communities who are already engaged
in resisting their power structures, should come
secondary to a peoples’ resistance to the power
dynamics of their own communities. This unconference provided a space for admitting to
and struggling against anti-blackness in Arab
communities, tackling rape culture on every level
and waging love through the process. It was about
respecting gender self-identity and listening with
our hearts and spirits. It was about refraining
from falling back into our respective bubbles and
collectively creating alternatives together.
I was pleased to hear about the successful Derail

Veolia campaign waged by Boycott, Divestment
and Sanctions (BDS) movements in Palestine,
as Detroiters continue to face the threat of an
insidious Veolia undertaking. Listening to the BDS
stories solidified my view that the people have the
final say.
I returned home with a strengthened resolve
to bridge the gaps between organizers across
borders while building towards self-determination
and creating alternatives for my community and
communities who are on the ground building
towards a just society in Palestine, Hawaii, South
Africa, Ferguson, India, and beyond. Folks at
NSJP2014 were clear that resistance takes on many
forms, including creating something new, which
was refreshing to hear coming off the heels of the
New Work New Culture Conference.
October 24-26, 2014 was a redefining moment
for me, a silver lining to the cloud which had been
hovering over my spirit. When you are constantly on
the front lines of a particular battle, it can be difficult
to see your battle through the eyes of others. It can
be difficult to erase the lines that divide you. I look
forward to continuing a meaningful build with the
millennials who have chosen to take on the difficult
task of humanizing this country.
Thank you Kristian Bailey for inviting me to grow
my soul, and for reintroducing me to my humanity.

65

Palestine

66

67

art by maia brown

bds marks another victory as veolia sells
off all israeli operations
by the palestinian bds national committee
art by leah knopf

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
(BDS) movement and its worldwide
partners are celebrating the withdrawal of
the huge French corporation Veolia from
the Jerusalem Light
Rail (JLR), an illegal
rail system built to
facilitate the growth
and expansion
of Israeli colonial
settlements on
occupied Palestinian territory.
The sale of its stake in
the JLR project ends all of
Veolia’s involvement in the
Israeli market, including all
projects that violate
international law
and the human
rights of the
Palestinian people.
The sale follows
an extensive 7-year
boycott campaign
against Veolia, due to its complicity in the
Israeli occupation, which cost it tenders around
the world estimated to be worth over $20 billion.
Veolia sold nearly all of its business operations
in Israel in April 2015 but had until now remained
a 5% shareholder in the JLR project. On Thursday

68

evening, the human rights research
group Who Profits reported that Veolia
had liquidated its
5% share in the JLR
project.
Under BDS
pressure, Veolia has
failed to win massive
contracts with local
authorities across
Europe, the US and
Kuwait. City councils
across Europe have
passed resolutions
excluding the firm
from tenders
due to its
involvement
in Israeli
human rights
violations.
Following
Israel’s
massacre in
Gaza in the summer of 2014, for instance, Kuwait’s
city council excluded Veolia from a tender for the
treatment of solid waste worth $750 million.
Veolia executives have admitted that the campaign
has cost the company “important contracts”, and

financial analysts have repeatedly
spoken about the financial cost of
the campaign to Veolia.
By the end of 2013, Veolia’s
investment rating was reduced
to “junk” status as a result of its
reported massive debt of over $20
billion – almost equal to the total
value of tenders lost by Veolia by
then.
The Palestinian BDS National
Committee (BNC) General
Coordinator, Mahmoud Nawajaa,
described Veolia’s complete
withdrawal from illegal Israeli
projects as a victory for all human
rights campaigners who have
pressured the company:
“Strategic and dedicated
campaigning by the BDS
movement has forced one of
Europe’s biggest companies to
abandon the Israeli market.”
“Veolia’s withdrawal from Israel
sets an example to all companies
that are complicit in Israel’s human
rights violations. This is a victory
for the BDS movement and all
our partners from other rights
movements who have helped in
pressuring the company.”
Nawajaa added, “We call
for legal action, by specialized

organizations, against Veolia to
compel it to pay reparations to the
Palestinian communities adversely
affected by its infringements of
international law.”
The JLR is considered one
of the most infamous colonial
Israeli attempts to normalize
and strengthen Israel’s hold on
occupied East Jerusalem and tie
the city’s settlements even more
firmly into the state of Israel. The
United Nations Human Rights
Council considered the project a
service to Israel’s illegal colonies
in the OPT. Veolia’s involvement
in it, among other similarly illegal
Israeli operations, had rendered
the company complicit in Israel’s
violations of international law.
The BDS campaign against Veolia
was launched in Bilbao, the Basque
region, in November 2008, to
pressure the company to end its
involvement in Israeli violations of
Palestinian human rights.
In 2007, French solidarity group
AFPS and the Palestine Liberation
Organization took the company to
court in France to compel it to end
its complicity in Israel’s violations of

See more at:
http://www.bdsmovement.net/2015/veolia-sells-israelbusinesses-targeted-by-bds-13081#sthash.nYMwMrcq.dpuf
art by wizdom of high gods

international law.
As well as its involvement in
the JLR, Veolia had also been
targeted for its role in waste, water
and bus services for illegal Israeli
settlements. Veolia transferred
control of these projects to other
companies as the campaign
pressure on it mounted.
Riya Hassan, the BNC’s Europe
coordinator, said, “Veolia is
still a target for union activists,
environmentalists and antiprivatization campaigners,
due to its record of anti-labour
policies and involvement in the
privatization of public water.
All those still being affected by
Veolia’s policies and struggling for
accountability and reparations can
continue to count on our solidarity.
The BDS movement takes crossstruggle solidarity to heart.”

69

killings and injuries of Palestinian civilians and restrictions of movement that affect Palestinians, but
not Israeli settlers.

16 November 2012
Dear NLWA members,
I am writing to you in my capacity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of
human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 to urge you not to select Veolia for
public contracts due to its active involvement in Israel’s grave violations of international law.
On October 25, I presented a report to the United Nations General Assembly on the legal
responsibility of business enterprises, corporations and non-State actors involved in activities
relating to Israel’s settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.1 The report concluded that
corporations and non-State actors play an instrumental role in Israel’s belligerent occupation of
Palestinian territory and the infringements on the human rights of Palestinians and that public
authorities and civil society must take actions to hold complicit corporations to account.
Due to its deep and ongoing complicity with Israeli violations of international law and the strength
of concern of Palestinian, European and Israeli civil society about the role played by Veolia, I decided
to select Veolia as one of the case studies to include in my report. I have attached the report for
your consideration.
Veolia has a 5 per cent share in the CityPass consortium, through its subsidiary Connex Israel, which
was contracted by Israel to operate the light rail project in Jerusalem. The light rail is designed
to connect the city of Jerusalem with Israel’s illegal settlements. Veolia owns approximately 80
per cent of Connex Jerusalem, the company that operates the trains. Furthermore, through its
subsidiary company, the Israeli Veolia group, Veolia owns and operates the Tovlan landfill in the
Jordan Valley of the occupied Palestinian territory. The Tovlan landfill is used to dump Israeli waste
from both within Israel and Israeli settlements. Veolia furthermore operates buses linking Modi’in
and Jerusalem via road 443 and thereby servicing the Israeli settlements of Giv’at Ze’ev and Mevo
Horon. All these activities directly contribute to flagrant violations of international law.
The UN and the overwhelming majority of its members have consistently condemned Israel’s
settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory as illegal under international law (Article 49(6)
of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 governing belligerent occupation) and as a formidable
obstacle to peace, yet Israel continues with their expansion. The United Nations Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has documented how the existence and continued
expansion of illegal settlements have a severe humanitarian impact on Palestinian
70 civilians, including with respect to house demolitions,
1: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43376#.UJ-8rYVY4Xw

Veolia is a signatory to the UN Global Compact, a set of principles regarding business conduct.
Yet its wide ranging and active involvement in Israel’s settlement regime and persistent failure to
exercise due diligence show utter disregard for the human rights related principles of the Global
Compact.
One of the key recommendations of my report is to urge states to implement the new UN Guiding
Principles on Business and Human Rights. These Guiding Principles suggest as good practice that
state authorities consider “denying or withdrawing existing public support or services” to companies
that fail to address their involvement in serious human rights recommendations.2
I was therefore heartened to learn that a UK government minister has confirmed that UK legislation
allows public authorities to exclude companies involved with Israel’s illegal settlements from tender
exercises.3
Indeed, I agree with the increasing number of experts in international law that argue that any
decision by the NLWA to provide access to public funds to Veolia may contravene the UK’s
international legal obligation not to facilitate Israeli violations of international law.
It is my view that Veolia’s violations of the UN Global Compact principles and its deep and
protracted complicity with grave breaches of international law make it an inappropriate partner for
any public institution, especially as a provider of public services.
As I conclude in my recent report, the failure to bring Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory to
an end after more than 45 years creates an augmented international responsibility to uphold the
human rights of the Palestinian people, who in practice live without the protection of the rule of
law.
I urge you to follow the example set by public authorities and European banks that have chosen to
disassociate themselves from Veolia and take the just and principled decision not to award Veolia
any public service contracts. Such a measure would contribute to upholding the rule of law and
advancing peace based on justice.
Yours sincerely,
Richard Falk

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories
occupied since 1967

*North London Waste Authority does not award tenders to Veolia*
2: http://www.business-humanrights.org/media/documents/ruggie/ruggie-guiding-principles-21-mar-2011.pdf
3: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm120523/text/120523w0004.htm#12052384000139

71

Finland

overview of current activities in europe
In the past decade, the Dump
Veolia campaign has been taken
up in many countries in Europe.
Activists have used different
strategies to hold Veolia to
account for its complicity in Israel’s
violations of international law. For
example, the campaign has called
on investors to divest from Veolia,
it has pressurized local authorities
and
institutions,
including
universities, to do no business
with Veolia. It further requested
organizations not to accept
sponsor money which allows Veolia
to whitewash its
activities
linked
72
to
the
illegal

settlements in the occupied West
Bank. The Electronic Intifada
regularly reports about the Dump
Veolia campaign. Here follows a
summary of recent activities in
Europe.

France

Activists from the BDS campaign
in France protested against the
French multinational Veolia
Environnement and Israeli water
company Mekorot at the World
Water Forum in Paris last April.
Both companies are involved
in Israel’s violations of rights of
the Palestinian people. Veolia
Water was one of the corporate

WRITTEN BY adri nieuwhof
sponsors of the water summit.
BDS France further informed
me about local campaigns to
call on local authorities to do
no business with Veolia. Where
possible, the campaign teams up
with citizens who fight against
water privatization. Veolia is
the largest water privatization
business in the world.
In addition, BDS France
sent a letter to the director
of the progressive newspaper
l’Humanité with the request not
to accept Veolia as a sponsor
of the newspaper’s large yearly
outdoor event with music,
discussions and exhibitions.

The Israeli Committee Against
House Demolitions (ICAHD)
Finland is pressurizing the
city council of Helsinki to end
their business with Veolia for
the company’s role in Israel’s
activities in illegal settlements
in the occupied West bank. A
motion not to make any new
contracts with Veolia and to
end existing contracts insofar
possible was submitted by 13 city
council members. The motion
referred to EU procurement
laws which make is possible to
exclude from bidding economical
operators that have committed
grave misconduct.
In response to the motion,
Helsinki Regional Transport
argued that the branches of
Veolia that operate in Finland
and in the Occupied Palestinian
Territories were considered to
be separate entities. Veolia has
used this argument on many
occasions. However, Veolia
comprises a single entity and
profits and prospers as such.
An independent legal opinion
on Veolia’s corporate structure
exposed that for example
Veolia’s branch in the UK is
under the control of the parent
company Veolia Environnement,
which in turn has control of its
Israeli subsidiaries that have been

committing, and continue to
commit, acts of grave misconduct.
Veolia Environnement bears
responsibility for these acts
and as a single entity the
whole
company,
including
its subsidiaries, shares this
responsibility,
according
to
the lawyers.
The city council did not follow
the advice of Helsinki Regional
Transport to reject the motion,
but decided to return the motion
for further evaluation.
More
information
about
ICAHD Finland’s ongoing Veolia
campaign can be found here.
The statement gives an excellent
overview of arguments for
a boycott of and divestment
from Veolia.

The Netherlands

The Dutch Collective Citizens
against Veolia unites several
organizations and concerned
citizens. The group informs
local authorities about Veolia’s
role in Israeli projects in the
occupied West Bank and the
responsibility of local authorities
to respect international law.
The collective staged a protest
in the province of Zeeland and
former Dutch ambassador Jan
Wijenberg addressed a meeting
of the members of the provincial
parliament. The contract with
Veolia was extended with three

years, but the press release of
the collective gained vast media
attention. We should not forget
that an important aim of the BDS
campaign is to educate the public
about Israel’s violations of rights
of Palestinians. Media attention
is essential to reach out to a
wide audience.
The outcome of the campaign
of the collective against Veolia
in the province Limburg is not
clear yet.

United Kingdom

The Dump Veolia Campaign in
the UK continues to pressurize
local authorities to stop doing
business or not enter into new
contracts. Recently, Veolia Out
of Royal Parks Alliance (Vorpal)
submitted a substantial argument
to The Royal Parks, the manager
of eight prestigious London’s
parks as to why Veolia should
not be awarded maintenance
contracts over its role in Israel’s
violations of international law.
The submission was supported
by scores of signatures from
“the great and good,” states the
campaign on its website.
Veolia was bidding for St
James’s Park and rebidding for
Regent’s Park. In both cases Veolia
was not awarded the contract
and Dump Veolia Campaign
claimed a victory.

Adri Nieuwhof is a human rights advocate based in Switzerland and contributor to The Electronic Intifada.

73

global

June 2009, Veolia has lost $7 billion worth of contracts since the beginning
of the campaign and considered abandoning the Jerusalem Light Rail project.
October 2010, Veolia signed a principle agreement to sell its shares in the
Jerusalem Light Rail to the Israeli transportation cooperative Egged. Veolia
will transfer shares to Egged over a five-year period.
December 2010, The monitoring network Banktrack noted
that financial investment in Veolia is “risky” because
of its illegal activities in the OPT.

united states

June 2007, New England
Conference of the United
Methodist Church’s Divestment
Task Force identified Veolia
along with a list of other
companies as a recommendation
for divestment.
June 2010, TIAA-CREF divestment campaign
was launched in the United States. The
campaign includes a petition calling for
divestment from five major companies involved in the
occupation, including Veolia, and currently holds around
24,000 signatures.
September 2012, The Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation
(FFC) has divested from Veolia Environnement due
to concerns about the company’s involvement in the
Israeli occupation.
January 2013, Veolia withdraws from water contract bidding
valued at $325 million in Yolo County, California.
November 2013, Veolia withdraws itself from consideration
for a contract in St. Louis worth well over $250,000 after
a resolution is passed that would remove funds allocated
for Veolia in the city’s budget.
January 2014, Veolia loses Massachusetts commuter
74 to competitor after 10 years of operation,
rail contract
following a public campaign highlighting the company’s
poor performance and human rights violations in Palestine.
Contract worth is estimated at $4.26 Billion.

veolia & its
history of
contract
losses

Ireland

August 2006, Veolia cancelled its contract with the Irish Trade Union to
train Israeli drivers and engineers on the Dublin Luas tram (nearly identical
to the illegal tramway being built in Jerusalem).
February 2009, Sligo City Council passed a motion not to renew any further
contracts with Veolia because of its activities in the OPT.
April 2009, Galway City Council voted (12 to 2 in favour) not to renew or
enter into any contracts with Veolia (who had operated underground
system).
May 2010, Dublin City Council unanimously passed a resolution calling on
the City Manager not to renew any contracts with Veolia (Luas tram) and
exclude all new contracts (metro)
October 2010, Cork City Council voted to not
sign or renew contracts with Veolia.

wales

June 2010, Swansea City Council passed
a resolution to exclude Veolia from all
future contracts because of its activities
in the OPT. These contracts are worth
about £1bn per year.
November 2010, The Caerphilly County
Borough Council in Wales passed a
motion to exclude Veolia from any
future contracts or renewal of
contracts because of its breaches of
international law.

United Kingdom

January 2012,
The National
Union of Students expressed its
support for campaigns calling on
UK universities to abolish their
relationship with Veolia and Eden Springs
for their involvement in the occupation.
February 2012, Jeremy Corbyn, MP (Member of
Parliament) calls for economic operators
aiding and abetting the building, maintenance,
or servicing of illegal Israeli settlements to
be excluded from public contracts
in the EU. His Early Day Motion
is signed by 76 other MPs.

switzerland

spain

November 2008,
A Veolia campaign is launched
in front of the Bilbao city hall in
response to Bilbao’s awarding of a bus
contract to the company.

March 2012, Veolia loses a
substantial contract in East
Sussex for waste collection,
recycling, street and beach
cleaning for Eastbourne, Hastings,
Rother, and Wealden Council.
August 2012, Veolia has been excluded
from contract to build and operate an
incinerator/waste treatment facility serving
North Wales. The contract is part of the North
Wales Residual Waste Treatment Project and includes
the Flintshire, Conwy, Denbighshire, Isle of Anglesey, and
Gwynedd county councils.
May 2013, Sheffield University decided not to renew a
waste collection contract worth £2m with Veolia.

scotland

December 2010, Veolia lost contract to
privatize public services for garbage
collection and street cleaning in Edinburgh.

Iran

June 2009, City of Tehran announced that Veolia would be excluded
from bidding for key contracts for the city’s transportation services.

August 2008, The Swiss Alternative
Bank (ABS) acknowledged that
Veolia did not meet their new
criteria for investment, and expected
Bank Sarasin to influence Veolia to
withdraw from the tramway project or to
sell its shares in Veolia.

australia

June 2009, Veolia
Transport failed
to
win
the
contract for the
Melbourne light
rail transit.

75

england

sweden

February 2011, Richmond Council did not renew its streetcleaning contract with Veolia, worth £12m.

December 2010, Annual Report of Ethical Council of
the Swedish National Pension Funds (AP1, AP2, AP3, AP4)
added Veolia to their watchlist of companies involved
in the occupation.

March 2009, Sandwell City Council rejected the candidacy
of a contract to Veolia garbage collection and recycling of
1.4 billion pounds. Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
excluded Veolia from Waste Improvement Plan (worth about
$1.5 billion over 20 years).

February/March 2011, Tower Hamlets town council voted to
breakdown any existing or future relationship with Veolia
because of its activities in the OPT.
March 2011, Portsmouth City Council chose another
bidder over Veolia for its rubbish collection contract.
Contract worth £20m.
April 2011, Veolia is removed from selection for waste
treatment infrastructure of £1 billion in South London.
May 2011, Veolia lost the new joint East Hants/Winchester City
contract for rubbish collection (Hampshire) worth £30m.
May 2011, The Transport and Salaried Staff Association (TSSA)
passed a motion demanding no new contracts with Veolia.
June 2011, The GMB, a general trade union, called on Veolia to
stop giving succour to colonialist occupation.
December 2011, Veolia lost contract valued at £485 million
covering 1.4 million inhabitants of the West London boroughs
of Brent, Ealing, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow and Richmondupon-Thames, for treatment of residual domestic waste.
October 2012, Veolia Environment has failed to obtain an
8-year, £40 million contract with Canterbury City Council.
The bid instead went to Serco, the current holder.
December 2012, Veolia pulls out of North London Waste
Authority contract (worth £4.7 billion) tender process.

January 2009, Stockholm county council announced
end of 10 year-long Stockholm county metro/subway
contract with Veolia, which would have been worth €3.5
billion over the next 8 years.

March 2011, The Board of Ethics of the 4 major Swedish
national pension funds AP1, 2,3,4 called on Veolia and
Alstom to end their involvement in the tram project
linking Jerusalem to the OPT.

Netherlands

November 2006, The ASN Bank announced that it would
end its relationship with Veolia Transport, and all
companies that benefit from Israel’s occupation of
Palestinian territory.
February 2008, The Dutch Triodos Bank announced that
Veolia and Alstom did not meet its criteria for investment.
The Bank will not invest in Veolia, among other companies,
because of its involvement in the occupation.
November 2010, The largest Dutch pension fund, PFZW (€97
billion) engaged with Veolia over its human rights abuses.
October 2012, The Board of Utrecht Regional (BRU) granted
a ten-year contract for tram and bus transportation in
the city and region of Utrecht to Qbuzz, replacing the
former operator, Connexxion. Connexxion was taken over
by Veolia in 2011.
May 2012, Veolia is not awarded a public transportation
contract for all bus transport in The Hague’s
city district.

france

October 2007, AFPS with PLO took Veolia Transport and Alstom to court, invoking French civil code. A French court in
Nanterre rejected the two companies claims that it had no jurisdiction in the case and reaffirmed the illegality of Israeli
colonies in East Jerusalem etc.
April 2009, Greater Bordeaux local government announced that the contract for the biggest urban network in France
was awarded to Veolia’s competitor (worth $1 billion).
November76
2010, Veolia loses bid to renew contract to operate the metro, bus and tramway lines in Lille, worth €1.2 billion.

January 2013, The Rennes City Council voted to not renew a contract with Veolia for management of their water.

resistance from within

veolia employee stops cutting off the water
written by maia brown

Marc, an engineer for customer services and a Veolia employee for twenty years, has lost
his job for refusing to cut off the water to families who could not pay.
Marc was fired in April of 2013 from Veolia Eau (Veolia Water) in the town of Avignon-his dismissal letter cited his “refusal to implement the cut-offs following the non-payment
of bills.” Basta! online reported that Marc refused to cut off water from close to one
thousand households between 2006 and 2013. A Veolia spokesperson on France TV info
responded: “His job description included closing water pipes and we are a company that
has rules. You can’t choose which tasks you want to do.”
Instead of turning the water off, Marc attempted to find alternate payment plans for
families, and often ‘forgot’ to cut off services if bills went unpaid. He repeatedly asked
for a different position in the company arguing that the emotional strain was too much.
In an interview with Europe1 radio Marc explained: “I saw people who had nothing,
living with their children, who begged me not to cut off the water supply and to give them
a little more time to pay up…It could happen to anyone. You have to make a choice - either
feed the children or pay the bills. These big companies pocket the money and redistribute
it to their shareholders, without looking after their clients or employees. It’s scandalous.”
Management at Veolia have consistently argued that the homes where Marc refused to
turn off the tap were not families in need, but just irresponsible, “habitual non-payers.” In
an interview with France Bleu, Marc responded, “Sometimes when I arrive at someone’s
home there’s nothing there. The fridge is empty and they have children.” His colleagues
recall him saying “we’re no longer there to carry out a social service, now it’s just
for the money.”
1: McPartland, Ben. “Fired for Refusing to Cut Off Poor Families’ Water.” The Local: France’s News in English, http://www.
thelocal.fr/20130419/sacked-for-refusing-to-cut-off-poor-families-water
2: Chapelle, Sophie. “Mobilisation pour l’employé de Veolia qui refusait de couper l’eau.” Basta! http://www.bastamag.
net/Avignon-mobilisation-pour-l
3: McPartland, Ben.
4: “Trouble brewing – Sacked for refusing to cut off the water for destitute families.” Le Monde, http://bigbrowser.blog.
lemonde.fr/2014/01/16/eau-dans-le-gaz-licencie-pour-avoir-refuse-de-couper-leau-a-des-familles-demunies/

77

Seattle

78

79

In Seattle, Veolia has the contract for Metro Access
bus service for disabled folks and the elderly.

dorian taylor on access and solidarity in our movements
statement by dorian taylor PTSD, nightmares, it’s all physical and this public service wasn’t
actually and it all breaks you being privatized by a company
on access
I’m a chair user, but I won’t ride
Access.
Having Access run by Veolia is
asking disabled folks to support
the system that is directly
disabling people. That’s fucked
up.
All of these colonialist
systems and these imperialistic
systems disable you. Like
prison is disabling. Institutions
are disabling. War is disabling.
Living in poverty is disabling.
It is important to look at all of
the ways that we are directly
and indirectly supporting these
systems.
Before I heard horror stories
about what the Access service is
actually like, I didn’t want to use
it because I knew that it was run
by Veolia and that Veolia is one
of the main profiteers of Israeli
apartheid.
When you think of the
system of Israeli apartheid,
the physical disabilities caused
by military occupation, also

80

down, disables you. All of these
things are directly related. All
of the institutions are directly
related.
I know people personally with
physical disabilities from Israeli
apartheid so that alone is enough
for me to not want to support
anything that is financing it. I
don’t wanna give my money, any
little piece of money, to a system
that I believe directly or indirectly
caused maybe not my condition
per se but a disabled condition in
other people.
I lost my ability to walk through
forced psychiatric medication,
being institutionalized as a child
since the age of 8 and forced
into institutions, that in itself is
disabling. But now I really see the
disabling role of institutions and
how disability justice really needs
to be a part of every struggle if we
are going to achieve liberation.
It might be a little different to
think about using Access if Access
was exclusively a state program,

that profits from Israeli apartheid.
It’s a bit fucked up to think about
these interconnections like this,
but it’s true, that’s how I feel.
True, the state is also a disabling
system, but our public dollars
should support public services
like transportation for folks with
disabilities and the elderly.
So not wanting to support
Israeli apartheid was one of my
key reasons of not wanting to
support Access. But then when I
found out how unreliable Access
transportation is, I was like uh uh,
absolutely no way. The system is
disrespectful.
Access
does
not
even
make sense from a capitalist
perspective. You’ve got two
hours, there’s a two-hour
window on either side of your
appointment. So you have a
two-hour appointment that can
be a six-hour trip for something
that is 30 minutes away or ten
minutes away. But what service
in a capitalist sense makes sense

to pay for if you’re gonna have
to wait two hours?
As disabled people we’re
supposed to be grateful
for anything we get. So I’m
supposed to be grateful that
there’s this service that’s
available but not reliable?
You have poor people who
are second-class citizens and
then you’ve got disabled people
who are second-class citizens
to able-bodied poor people.
So you’ve got this other class
that really is supposed to be
appreciative of everything
that society does for us. We’re
supposed to be appreciative
of having this door-to-door
transportation that takes longer
to get from point A to point B
than the bus?
Not to mention if they’re
early. My final decision not to
use Access was my friend telling
me about Access showing up
early while he was on the toilet
and they still left him and I was
like naw, naw, I’m not going to
support that, I’m done.

Interview with Dorian Taylor on integrating disability justice
into our movements for racial and economic justice
When Stop Veolia Seattle first came together, one of the group’s
initial goals was to use this campaign as an opportunity to practice
centralizing disability justice in our movement building work. Access
users have been upset with many aspects of the system for some
time and service has only deteriorated since Veolia took over in 2008.
It is important that whatever system we organize to bring about
works well for folks with disabilities and the elderly. It was clear to
us that we should be following the leadership of folks most directly
impacted and learning how to structure our meetings and events –
along with our communication outside of meetings – in a way that
is accessible and actively creates space to support the leadership of
folks with disabilities.
But so far, we have failed.
The following is an excerpt from a casual conversation between friends
that Dorian and I decided to record and transcribe as a contribution
towards learning to centralize disability justice in our
organizing for social and environmental change.

81

Dorian Taylor: Most people to be in the same room. We’re

don’t seriously think about
including disability justice in their
activism.
But all of these colonialist
systems and these imperialistic
systems, disable you. Like
prison is disabling, institutions
are disabling, war is disabling,
living in poverty is disabling,
so why wouldn’t you want to
include disability justice in your
movement?
Susan Koppelman: Right and
even this campaign, one of the
central points was to include
disability justice, and then like
one of the things we keep finding
is folks have a lot of nerve pain—
DT: Well, yeah! To get us all in one
room, that’s a challenge. Ya know!
It is a challenge. But there’s, ya
know, there’s Skype. There’s
teleconference. We don’t all have
to be physically in the same room

82

smart enough as human beings.
If we can put somebody in outer
space, we can figure out how to
create access. It just requires a
little extra thought, a little extra
thinking, but as human beings
we’re smart enough to do it.
SK: Yeah. I mean my experience
though is like if, I mean like yes
definitely Skype will eliminate
a lot of barriers, but sometimes
just pain is pain—
DT: And you can’t even do that.
SK: Yeah, you just can’t do
anything.
DT: That’s true. And I don’t even
have a Skype account by the way.
So, yeah! That is definitely true.
Um, but, you could also record it
and somebody could give their
input after the fact on their own
time.
SK: Yeah.
DT: You know.

I spend a lot of my life in the
bed, I spend a lot of my life bedridden, less now then in the past
years, and, there’s a lot of fucking
cool shit you can do from your
bed and it’s not to be discredited.
I think as activists in activist
communities people often think
of direct action as like your
physical body being there and
they don’t think of like online
activism, um um, as direct action.
But it totally can be.
I’ve been a part of online
movements and have seen things
change. Just putting your voice
out there can be a catalyst, faceto-face conversations, and I think
that as activists it’s like you need
to take a step back and look at
the privilege that goes into just
being able to rely on your body
on a regular day-to-day basis.
Even the way capitalism works
is still engrained in a lot of our

minds as activists because we still
judge ourselves by how much that
we can do and that we can push
ourselves to do all of these things
till our body drops you know but
that that’s like capitalism, that’s a
capitalist mindset.
Even though there’s no money
involved, it’s still a capitalist frame
of mind to like push yourself way
beyond your limits, your physical
limits, and that’s not okay either.
It can be done you know,
[getting outside of our capitalist
mindset and being inclusive of
folks with disabilities]. There’s
some people that can’t use
computers because of their
sensitivity to electromagnetic
fields, you know, um, that might
only be able to show up directly.
So there’s many different factors
that go into disability justice.
It’s even written in the ADA
that nobody pays attention to,

but it’s even written in the ADA
that if you don’t know what
accommodations
somebody
needs just ask.
SK: Mmm.
DT: Like that’s actually federal law.
SK: Huh.
DT: There’s nothing radical about
communication.
SK: Right.
DT: Ya know! It’s just something
that we should do. But because
it’s considered like you know
people still think of disability
and accommodations as special
privilege. People don’t think
of accommodations, like they
don’t think that it’s necessary
to accommodate just for one
person. But when you refuse
to accommodate just for one
person you’re basically telling
somebody they’re not wanted in
your community. That’s exactly
what you’re telling them.

83

pressure mounts on executive constantine
to take action on veolia

written by susan koppelman, originally printed in the south seattle emerald
French multinational corporation Veolia is the largest be going through a name change and rebranding
privatizer of water in the world and the largest process… Starting in mid-August of 2014, our
privatizer of transportation in North America, with parent company’s name, Transdev, will become our
appalling labor practices and a long list of human name. There are no other changes—no changes in
rights violations, including profiteering off of inflated ownership, in management, or in any other aspect of
water prices and Israeli apartheid. In King County, our operations.”
Veolia Transportation Services has been contracted
But the name change of the subsidiary from Veolia
to operate Metro Access paratransit service for folks Transportation Services Inc, a Maryland company,
with disabilities and the elderly since 2008.
to Transdev Services Inc, undeniably represents a
Successful campaigns against Veolia on account of change in ownership.
its human rights and labor violations have cost the
Veolia Transportation Services changed its name
company more than $20 billion in lost contracts – an from that of a subsidiary wholly owned by Veolia
amount comparable to its debt load, which caused Environnement to that of a new subsidiary wholly
Fitch and Moody’s to downgrade its credit ratings in owned by Transdev, which is presently only 50% owned
recent years.
by Veolia Environnement and 50% owned by a French
In order to distance its corporate logo from its financial institution. This is a change that King County
corporate debt, Veolia has engaged in several and all entities contracting with Veolia Transportation
restructuring and rebranding efforts throughout Services need to know about.
the years. Most recently, Veolia Environnement
If it is recognized that Transdev Services is a new
entered into a joint venture with French financial entity, this suggests that when Veolia Transportation
institution Caisse des Dépôts to consolidate all of Services ceased to exist,
its transportation contracts within a new company all of its contracts should
that would be 50% owned by the French bank. A have been reopened to
March 3, 2011 press release marks the completion a public bidding process.
of the restructuring in France and the creation of a
Initial
investigation
new company Veolia Transdev, now simply called seems to suggest that
Transdev.1
Veolia’s claim that
In a July 15, 2014 letter to King County Department Transdev was its
of Transportation in Washington State, Veolia parent company is
Transportation wrote: “Veolia Transportation will false as well.
1: Veolia Environment and Caisse des Dépôts “announce the creation of Veolia Transdev today, the
combination of their respective subsidiaries, Veolia Transport and Transdev.” The press release is
Transdev is a new company that is the result of a merger, and that “Veolia Transdev is owned jointly by Veolia Environnement and the Caisse des Dépôts.” Veolia
Transdev has since changed its name to Transdev to reflect Veolia’s planned
from the field of transportation entirely. The Transdev that is jointly
84 departure
owned by Veolia Group today represents an entirely new entity than the Transdev
that was wholly owned by Caisse des Dépôts, which preceded it.

result of the
clear that Veolia

Veolia Transportation Services,
Inc, as stated in its contract
with King County was a “wholly
owned subsidiary of Veolia
Environnement”. At no point
between the initial contract
signing with the county and the
July 15, 2014 letter did Veolia
Transportation ever issue the
county documentation that its
parent company had changed.

What does this mean for
King County, WA?

In 2008 Veolia caused a huge
upset to the King County labor
community. Veolia replaced a
long-time
union-represented
subcontractor, leading 140 unionrepresented employees to lose
their jobs or take pay cuts. The
Amalgamated Transit Union
Local 587 had just negotiated
new contracts the previous year
to increase the wage cap from

$19.90 to $23 over
the course of 4 years.
Under Veolia, these
victories were rolled
back, with Metro

Access drivers’ wages capped at
$18 since 2008.
According to a July 30, 2008
article in the Seattle Times,
“Metro’s general manager, Kevin
Desmond, estimated there would
be a $1 million annual savings”
from the switch to Veolia. But for
the last four years, the County has
paid at least $7 million more per
year than the amount that was
to represent $1 million in annual
savings.
How could this happen? Local
activists are still looking into why
Metro agreed to a number of
changes to the initial contract,
including such a spike in costs.
Other contract changes cut training
hours in half and reduced vehicle
maintenance to save $179,091.
All of this was decided without
reinstating previous pay scales.
Significantly, the contract
change that added $212 million

to the contract over seven years
was signed after French Veolia
subsidiary Veolia Transport had
already ceased to exist. So, while
Veolia claimed that it was getting
out of the transportation sector
entirely, it was nonetheless
moving aggressively to renew and
transfer transportation contracts
held by its former subsidiaries
abroad to Transdev. First it put off
reporting on the merger in France
for years; and then when it finally
announced the merger years
later to entities it was contracted
with in the U.S., it falsely claimed,
“same company, same leadership,
same ownership – just a new
name.”
It remains to be seen whether
there is any legal recourse to
punish Veolia for its fraudulent
misrepresentation
and
overcharging of King County.
Allegations of labor misconduct
also need to be investigated.
This past March 1st, Seattle/
King County residents were
subject to fare increases for
public
transportation.
Fare
increases were double for Access
users compared to bus fares for
students, seniors or the general
population. In light of Veolia’s
price gauging across sectors
globally,
in
many
cases
making access

85

to water unaffordable for local
populations, it is fair to ask the
question whether Veolia may be
behind the double fare increase
for Access users in King County.

Too big to fail?

This is not the first time that
Veolia has rebranded in order to
escape its debt or its deteriorating
reputation.
In 1996 over a third of the
directors of the Executive board
of Compagnie Générale des Eaux
were under investigation for
corruption and “misappropriation
of public funds”, contributing to
the 1998 name change to Vivendi.
In 2002, in the shadow of CEO
Jean-Marie Messier’s conviction
for fraud, the company changed
its name once again, this time to
Veolia.
This also is not the first time that
Veolia has been hostile to labor.
In 2012 in Arizona the National
Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
found Veolia guilty of “refusing to
meet with the Union for purposes
of negotiating a successor
collective-bargaining agreement,
engaging in regressive bargaining,
and bargaining with no intent of
reaching an agreement,” among
many other practices that are
illegal under the National Labor
Relations Act. The same year
the NLRB intervened to quash
Veolia’s illegal anti-union tactics
in Las Vegas and
Connecticut.
86
On March 5,

2015 a Boston jury took only ten
minutes to dismiss Veolia’s frameup charges against a local union
leader; but the four union leaders
Veolia fired in Boston are yet to be
reinstated. (Boston Mayor Marty
Walsh’s Vendor contract with
Veolia gives the City full and sole
authority to settle all grievances
– demand Mayor Walsh reinstate
the fired USW leaders 8751 by
contacting him at mayor@Boston.
gov or 617-635-4500).
Veolia’s repeated lying and
embezzlement from the public
clearly demonstrate that the
company’s allegiance is to
its shareholders and not the
communities it serves. Of course,
this is one of the main problems
with the privatization of public
services.
At a time when the US Congress
is trying to fast track the TransPacific Partnership (TPP), it is
crucial that the public understand
how large corporations like Veolia
are already getting away with
highway robbery. Agreements
like the TPP will only tip the scales
further in favor of massively
powerful corporations.
A 1996 case concerning
“Argentine affiliate company
Aquas del Aconquija, controlled in
substance by [Veolia predecessor]
Vivendi despite its separate
legal personality,” offers us a
cautionary tale of privatization
and free trade agreements that
supersede national sovereignty.
When consumer groups in the

poor province of Tucuman,
Argentina took legal action to halt
the increase in water tariffs and
a regulatory body ordered the
company “to pay fines amounting
to several million for water
quality failures and contractual
non-compliance,” Vivendi took
the province to arbitration using
the World Bank’s International
Centre for the Settlement of
Investment Disputes (ICSID). In
2010, concluding the longest
running case before the ICSID,
the court ultimately sided with
Vivendi, despite its contractual
noncompliance,
determining
that the company had a right
to make a profit and awarding
the company US$105 million in
damages, an amount nearly equal
to ten percent of the public debt
of Tucuman province.
It is anticipated that the TPP
will further entrench the right to
profit for corporations like Veolia
that exist solely to make profit.
In order to protect our public
services, it is essential that we stop
corporations like Veolia when we
learn about them, that we create
mechanisms to hold powerful
corporations and their CEOs
accountable, and that we work to
remunicipalize public services that
have been subcontracted.
If Seattle/King County residents
are successful in creating
accountability mechanisms and
challenging Veolia’s lies, this could
set a precedent for Transdev
contracts throughout the U.S.

At the very least, it’s a cautionary tale as to why we
need to resist the privatization of our public services
and the TPP.

Opposing Veolia

In King County, the Transit Riders Union and
Stop Veolia Seattle, in coalition with labor, antiprivatization, disability justice and Palestine
solidarity groups, issued a letter to Councilmembers
last year demanding that the County end the contract
with Veolia. Reasons include Veolia’s poor service,
low wages, erosion of labor protections, a 50%
reduction in training hours and cut backs on vehicle
maintenance, while adding $7 million in annual
costs. The global context of Veolia’s profiteering
from inflated water prices and Israeli apartheid is of
additional concern.
Now activists are also insisting that King
County hold Veolia to account for its fraudulent
misrepresentation of its restructuring to the county.
In September 2014, the MLK County Labor
Council – the local affiliate of the National AFL-

CIO representing over 150 labor organizations and
75,000 workers – voted unanimously to pass a
resolution to end the contract with Veolia, preclude
Veolia from bidding on future contracts and to bring
Metro Access in-house.
On March 18, Chair Larry Phillips of the King County
Council sent a letter to King County Executive Dow
Constantine signed by the five Democratic members
of the nine-person council, urging the Executive to
investigate “serious concerns for many aspects of
ACCESS service, including rider experience, labor
protections and wages, and potential cost overruns
to our government.”
If you are concerned by Veolia’s profiteering off
of our tax dollars while gutting this essential service
for community members with disabilities and the
elderly, let Executive Constantine know.
The contract is up for renewal in 2018, but Veolia
and Transdev have some answering to do now.
Susan Koppelman is a Seattle based mother and
activist with Stop Veolia Seattle.

King County Executive Constantine may be reached at
206-263-9600 or kcexec@kingcounty.gov
Suggested talking points:
I am concerned that the County is contracting with Veolia/Transdev, a foreign
corporation with an abysmal global track record. Our local disability community
and elderly deserve better.
Metro must answer for the $7 million annual budget increase. I join King County
residents in demanding an audit of the contract.
I urge you to end this contract and to bring Access paratransit service in-house to
protect these jobs.

87

stop veolia seattle
call to king county council
ns

o
i
t
a
c
i
f
i
s
l
a
f
veolia’s

Stop Veolia Seattle (SVS) and the undersigned organizations urge the King County Council to 1)
discontinue all contracts with Veolia, 2) preclude Veolia from obtaining any future contracts with the
County, and to 3) bring Metro Access services in-house to be operated by the County.
Veolia, the French-based multinational corporation, formerly known as Vivendi, is the largest
privatizer of water in the world, the largest privatizer of transportation in North America, and also
involved in privatizing other public services such as trash collection and disposal. In more than 50
instances around the globe, cities and states have broken their contracts with Veolia because Veolia
is not meeting the terms of its contracts. Costs have gone up while service has gone down, turning
public investment into private profit. This track record has been opposed by the public since Veolia
went by the name of Vivendi. As Vivendi, the corporation lost record numbers of contracts because
costs were going up and services were deteriorating, posing serious risk to public health and safety.
The commodification of public services and resources for profit have also led to policies and practices
that break international law and infringe upon human rights globally. Unfortunately, in changing their
name they didn’t also change their business practices. As Veolia, the corporation has lost an additional
24 billion dollars worth of contracts. It feels shameful that in Martin Luther King Jr. County our public
taxpayer dollars are supporting a corporation with such a dismal global track record.
There are also grievances at home. Veolia has a history of union busting right here in Seattle, as well
as in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Boston. Moreover, users of Metro Access report that the service has
deteriorated under the authority of Veolia. Our disability community deserves much better.
Because of Veolia’s role in global structures of inequality, as one of the largest privatizers of public
services in the world, SVS and the undersigned see Veolia as one window into understanding the
larger interconnections of our struggles for economic and social justice both in our local communities
and in solidarity with struggles for justice around the world.
SVS and the undersigned are committed to building relationships at the intersections of labor,
disability justice, anti-corporatization, environmental justice, corporate accountability for human
rights violations, and solidarity with the Global South.

88

Signed,
BAYAN-NW, CISPES (Community in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador), CodePink - WA,
Freedom Socialist Party (Seattle), JVP-Seattle (Jewish Voice for Peace), No New Jim Crow Seattle
Campaign, Puget Sound Chapter of Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East (UUJME),
QuAIA (Queers Against lsraeli Apartheid), Rising Tide - Seattle, SUPER UW (Students
United for Palestinian Equal Rights), The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and
Justice, Transit Riders Union, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility (WPSR), 89
WISH (Washington lncarceration Stops Here )

BAYAN Pacific Northwest stands in strong solidarity with people around the world fighting against
multi-national corporations attempting to privatize basic needs, like access to water and sanitation
services. We are in full support of the Stop Veolia Seattle Campaign advocating that King County
cease its contract with Veolia to operate the Metro Access program, a transportation service for
disabled and elderly residents.
BAYAN Pacific Northwest is a strong supporter of the United Nations Convention on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights affirmation that access to water is a condition for the enjoyment of
the right to an adequate standard of living and inextricably related to the right to the highest
attainable standard of health and therefore a human right. We affirm the belief that access
to water is a human right and should not be a profit-generating commodity. However, Veolia
is the largest privatizer of water in the world, which includes water and sewage contracts in
Manila, Philippines.

transit riders union
In this age of austerity, working and poor people have been made to pay for the under-funding
of public transit again and again. Transit riders pay when service is cut, when fares go up, and
when regressive taxes are raised to fill the gap. Bus drivers pay when they are forced into contract
concessions, find their working conditions deteriorating, or lose their jobs to private contractors.
As bus riders, we understand the importance of standing up for the rights of our drivers. We
understand the importance of solidarity. Without the labor movement there would be no stable
jobs and no foundation for stable families, neighborhoods, and communities.
A few years ago, King County extended their contract with the private corporation Veolia to
operate most of their Access fleet. This is not acceptable. We will not stand by and watch as
stable, family-supporting union jobs are replaced with poorly paid, precarious jobs. Furthermore,
Metro drivers appreciate their responsibility in providing a vital public service. Underpaid and
poorly treated Veolia drivers cannot be expected to provide the same standard of care. The Transit
Riders Union supports Stop Veolia Seattle’s demand that King County terminate its contract with
Veolia and restore these jobs to union drivers.

90

This corporation is also complicit in the continuing oppression of communities across Palestine
and Israel. From their illicit subsidiaries supporting illegal settlements on Palestinian land to
normalizing Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands through transportation contracts, Veolia is a
giant octopus of corruption whose tentacles of profit opportunistically squirm into the crevices of
developing countries across the world.
This company makes millions in profits off privatizing basic needs, occupation, and segregation.
In addition, Veolia has a long history of union-busting and hostility to its workers’ collective right
to organize. This includes King County’s Metro Access program, despite King County Metro transit
operators’ long history of union representation. In severing union contracts and paying workers
below that of union wages, Veolia once again demonstrates their priorities of profit over people.
We join Filipino Americans and allies globally in resisting Veolia’s attempts to profit from water
and sanitation, to profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine, to profit by eliminating living
wage union jobs.
From Seattle to the Philippines, no to privatization! No to contracts with Veolia!

BAYAN-NW, Joaquin Uy

TRU, Yasmin Elbaradie
transitriders.org

bayanusapnw.wordpress.com

91

solid ground, access driver & member of atu local 587 on veolia
anonymous, access driver for 8+ years, interviewed and transcribed by susan koppelman
The 75% of Access drivers with
Veolia/Transdev have not been
unionized since King County
canceled
the
successorship
contract with MV Transport in
2008 and accepted Veolia’s lowbid to save $1 million off the
backs of Access drivers. In 2009
Metro approved an additional
$1 million in annual costs to
Veolia, in 2010 an additional $4
million annually, and since 2011
Metro has approved a total $7.3
million annual cost increase to
Veolia since 2008 while workers
conditions suffer.
When Veolia came into being
a provider, drivers used to have
what we call start times that a
person comes to work everyday.
For instance, a driver gets a
chance to have what we call
picks, just like metro, you can say
what days off you want and what
time of work you want, or what
time of day you want to start
work. So it was generally done
like 7 o’clock, then 7:15, there’s
a 7:30 start, a 7:45, in 15-minute
intervals, from 7 o’clock all the

92

way up to 12 midnight there
were start times in increments
of 15 minutes. So a driver would
come in and say he’d look at what
we call a packet, a packet might
be Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
Thursday you work, and you start
at 3:45 each day, ten hours, and
then you’re off Friday, Saturday
and Sunday.
When Veolia came into the
game it all changed. Now you
have what we call a floating
time. You come and say well I’m
picking to work at 3:45 so then
guess what you might start at
4:45 so there’s an hour swing on
everybody’s time so you never
know when you’re going to be
working. Your lunch isn’t going
to be the same every day, or your
getting off of work isn’t going to
be the same every day. You have
to call in every day to see if you’re
even going to work. And if your
name isn’t on the list, you don’t
go to work.
And right now they just started
because of Metro, this break
thing, they just started putting

in places to take breaks, so that’s
the newest thing that they’ve
done, but the dirt is still there.
Someone came around to
observe us one day and asked us
how things were and we said fix
the scheduling, the scheduling
isn’t right. The drivers aren’t
getting breaks. We’re getting
stressed here.
Some of the drivers even have
to go put on those things you
know so they don’t wet their
seats, some of them are putting
depends on so they don’t wet
their seats. That’s a sad thing
to hear. I tell folks you know
there’s nothing that supercedes
that kind of stuff. So the same
things that are happening with
metro drivers are happening
with paratransit and even more
so with paratransit because if
you have a person on board and
that person would be called a
hand-to-hand or a person who
cannot be left alone then you’re
not supposed to get out of your
vehicle and leave that person by
themselves and go do anything

away from the van, you’re
supposed to keep your eyes on
the vehicle wherever you are
outside the vehicle at all times if
somebody is on the vehicle. And
so it happens when people don’t
know how to play the game, they
don’t know what to do and they
wet themselves and stuff of that
nature. That’s something that’s
not advertised too much but it
really happens.
So now with the latest from
Metro that we’ll be getting actual
breaks, not this stuff they were
saying before about 3 mins at a
stop light counting as part of a
break – yeah Metro actually said
that – now I don’t know what’s
happening. I don’t know how it’s
going, how things are cleaning
up, but there’s a lot of people
who are unhappy. When you’re
unhappy doing your work, your
work doesn’t look very good.
The passengers are not lying.
They’re getting abused. They
got it now to where Metro has
them where they just say if you
don’t like the service ride some
place else. And then they’ll tell
the driver, look you either do it

the way I tell you to do it or I’ll
find somebody else that will. So,
what does that do?! I mean read
between them lines. And then
you say what the hell do I have to
do here now? I mean do I have a
voice? Yes, if you’re in the union
you have a voice. You can say
something.
Some of the people who ride
the bus are saying “those kids
down there at the call center [1]
disrespect me when I call for a
ride they talk to me like I don’t
know what’s going on. I don’t like
that very much.” And I say “oh”.
This is what I hear riding the bus
all of the time. And I say well you
know things are supposed to be
recorded down there for you.
They complain, they complain
and they complain. They say the
few drivers that are union are
the drivers they enjoy being with
they can tell automatically, they
know the difference, they can see
the quality of a person’s concern
and they say hey I know you’re
from Solid Ground, you’re not
Veolia. They know Veolia. They
even call down and ask are they
going to be picked up by Veolia.

That’s how crazy it is! Yeah, if I’m
gonna get picked up by Veolia
I’m gonna have to call my cousin!
Or you know, I just don’t think I
want to go. We do not encourage
or say anything about another
driver. We just hear and try to be
sensitive to the thought and just
continue on being professional.
Veolia says cameras on the
dashboard are for safety, so why
does it seem that the main focus
is on the driver? Veolia purchased
them and Metro says they didn’t
have anything to do with it, but
they are Metro vehicles.
As long as you pick the person
up safe and bring them back
safe that should be the most
import thing of all. But Veolia
is in the business of selling fear.
They control us by making us
constantly fearful of losing our
jobs. We deserve a business
model based on respect. The
more our employer respects us
drivers, the more respect drivers
will be able to extend to the
community members who use
the Access service.

[1] The call center is run by private transportation corporation First Transit, second largest in
the US next to Veolia/Transdev.

93

hearing from access users

Lonnie Nelson, longtime
Metro Access user, Transit
Riders Union (TRU) member,
and a lifelong activist,
shared her experience of
Access under Veolia in 2013
before her death in 2014.

94

95

interview with jacqueline sorgen
april 28, 2015, greenwood senior center

My name is Jacqueline R.
Sorgen, I have been using
Access now in excess of 8 years.
Every 3 years you are required
to go for reevaluation. Mine is
due sometime I believe June
9th and I’m trying to move it
up because sunshine hurts my
eyes and I prefer doing this
before the heavy sunshine of
the summer.
Regarding Veolia, I have been
there since before they came
on board, and there’s a problem
of a tremendous disconnect,
because there is more than one
company involved, and they
don’t communicate well with
others. I believe First Student
does the scheduling and the
drivers are with different
organizations, Veolia and Solid
Ground. I have noticed that the
Veolia drivers are not as well
trained or as experienced as the
Solid Ground drivers, and also
that there is a lot of paranoia
because they are cutting back
the hours and everything else
of the Veolia drivers, and since

96

they are non-union they are very
nervous.

susan koppelman: What do you
know about the cutting back of
the hours for Veolia drivers, what
that’s connected to?
jacqueline sorgen: [The reduced

hours are connected to] budget
cuts. They just increased the fare
by 40%. My monthly pass went
up from $45 to $63, and I require
a monthly pass because I’m a
frequent flyer aboard Access, so I
absolutely have to have one. It was
hard enough for me to afford when
it was $45, now that it’s $63 I’m not
quite sure what’s going to happen.
The call center is actually run
by First Student but they don’t
communicate well.

sk: First transit?
js: No they call it First Student.
It’s different.

sk: Interesting ok, I have to look

into that more.

js: No, they call it First Student cuz

it runs the student school bus line.
And unfortunately they have not
upgraded their computer in a long,

long time. So their drivers are totally
overworked and overstressed,
from both companies.

sk: Right that affects the Soild

Ground drivers too. Now do you
have some Solid Ground drivers in
addition to Veolia drivers?

js: I have both. And then we always
get the overflow periodically.
sk: How does that work?
js: They want to get you home
and they don’t feel like having
anybody do overtime, so they hire
what they call the overflow. And
the order of that is WAT, which
is Washington Accessible Transit,
then Sunshine, then Northwest
Transit fourth, then Trans Pro,
Trans Pro is their hail Mary.

sk: So there are drivers who are
going to be laid off, but they’re still
also deferring some of the service?

js: Yes, to alternative companies.
Does that help? Am I explaining
things well? I can’t even tell anymore.
sk: Oh yeah, you’re explaining very
well! When you say that you’ve
noticed that the Veolia drivers

don’t appear to be trained as
well, can you speak to that more?

js: I have to instruct the drivers
on how to apply the seatbelt.
Little things like that, you know.
sk: Are there other examples?
js: They also, Access as a whole,

changes its rules without notifying
anybody. But that is a systemic
problem, not a Veolia problem.

sk: Right. So, it’s Metro then?
js: It’s a combination of everything.
sk: So like what kinds of policies?
js: Well, for instance, they will

only wait 5 minutes period,
if they pull up and you’re not
there within the five mins that
they pull up, you’ll have to find
another way to get to where
you’re going.
It’s not a new policy, they’re
just enforcing it more rigorously
than they used to. Because
they’re working on tighter and
tighter routes and scheduling,
so that’s the way it is.
Sometimes you just can’t
make it right there in 5 mins.

sk: In terms of how to fix Access bring the contract in-house, we

going forward?

js:

They need to start
communicating among the
companies. They have no idea
what’s going on, they just do
what they’re told. Some of the
drivers are nice and will wait.
And others, ‘well that’s what it
says, I can’t wait.’
And the way it’s routed is
ridiculous. I’ve gone home from
UW and I live in North Seattle via
Tukwila. Also Veolia shuts down
it’s Shoreline base at 11 pm
during the week, so meanwhile
drivers will have to come from
all of these other bases to cover
Shoreline shutting down early.
They definitely need to
improve their communication
and try and treat their riders
with some respect, okay, does
that make sense?

sk: Yeah, for sure. Let’s see what
we can do about it.

might be able to in King County.
If they’re bringing together
Access users to..

js: They’re not. We don’t count.
We really don’t which is why
they figured they can get away
with going up from $45 to $63
a month [for monthly Access
passes]. Cuz we’re old, disabled,
either senior or disabled
disabled. We got the highest
raise and that was ridiculous cuz
we’re the brokest.
sk: As Stop Veolia Seattle, we

want to use the power we’re
generating coming together
with the unions and different
affected communities to all band
together to get labor to band
by the Access users’ goals of
the campaign and for everyone
who’s part of the campaign to
have your back and amplify your
voices.

JS: That’s a nice idea. I don’t
JS: I doubt much, but we can try, think it’s going to happen, but
you know how that works.

SK: Actually I think if we can

you’re welcome to prove me
wrong.

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on september 17, 2014 the mlk county labor council passed the following

resolution against veolia introduced by atu local 587:
WHEREAS French-based multinational corporation, Veolia, is one of the largest privatizers
of public services in the world and holds the majority percentage of the contract for the
operation of King County Metro Access buses; and
WHEREAS Veolia has a history of Union busting in Seattle in 2008, user dissatisfaction with
Access service under its authority, and a dismal global track record of high costs and fees for
poor service and infrastructure maintenance, low wages and cuts in benefits for workers, as
well as violations of international law and human rights; and
WHEREAS MLKCLC has made a commitment nationally to make common cause with struggles
for social justice and workers’ rights around the world, building global solidarity to strengthen
worker and union power everywhere; and
WHEREAS MLKCLC knows that privatization undermines that effort and puts workers and
users of public transport at risk; be it therefore
RESOLVED that MLKCLC supports ending all contracts with Veolia in King County, bringing
all bus services in house, and precluding Veolia from bidding on any future contracts in King
County; and be it further
RESOLVED that this resolution be sent to 1) Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond; 2) King
County Executive Dow Constantine; and 3) All members of the King County Council.

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Stop Veolia Seattle (SVS) is a local intersectional campaign
that is aligned with the movement for Boycott, Divestment
& Sanctions (BDS) of Israel until Israel ends its violations
of Palestinian human rights and international law.
Locally SVS stands in solidarity with disabled folks, the elderly, and bus drivers – those who are most
directly impacted by the cancellation of the contract with MV Transport and King County’s decision to
contract with Veolia. At the same time we work in solidarity with Palestine, the global water justice
community and with the Global South resisting neocolonial austerity measures and the privatization
of essential public services.
As we do solidarity work in the context of struggles that are both local and global, we know that
solidarity is not conditional. Bus driver solidarity with Palestine, for example, cannot be a prerequisite
of our solidarity with their struggle for job security, better working conditions and improved wage /
benefit packages.
Our objectives are local: to get rid of Veolia/Transdev, to bring the service in-house, and to improve
the service to meet the needs of folks with disabilities and the elderly. Our hope is that these local
goals contribute to global struggles for justice.
We hope that by being in solidarity with both local struggles and also global struggles we may expand
and transform how solidarity is practiced, and develop ways of being in solidarity that are increasingly
generative for liberation struggles both locally and globally.
“We are delighted by Veolia’s withdrawal from Israel and Occupied Palestine just as we were about
to print this publication. We remain committed to supporting disabled and elderly users of the Access
service as well as Access drivers.”

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http://www.mlkclc.org/docs/Resolutions%202014%2Epdf

Veolia/Transdev has attempted to divide our coalition because
we call attention to their role in Israeli Apartheid.
Excerpted from a letter from Transdev dated April 6, 2015
Re: March 18, 2015 Letter from Certain Councilmembers Attack on Transdev
Dear County Executive Constantine and Councilmembers:
The five (5) Councilmembers also may not realize that, in aligning themselves with the campaign of
misinformation by the ATU, they have also aligned themselves with the BDS movement, for which “Stop
Veolia Seattle” is a local front organization. “Stop Veolia Seattle” is not a transit users group, but is part
of the “Boycott, Divest and Sanction” movement or “BDS”, a coalition of anti-Israel activists that seek
to undermine support in the U.S. and internationally for the nation of Israel. Its principal objective, in
the words of Omar Barghouti, the BDS international founder and leader, is the “euthanization of Israel.”
Formed in 2005 and now part of the anti-Israel lobby, BDS uses a strategy of systematic attacks on
companies that do business in or with the nation of Israel or in any part of Palestine. It makes false and
exaggerated claims about the goods or services these companies provide in order to call attention to
its anti-Israel position.
Transdev (formerly a subsidiary of Veolia Environnement, a leading global provider of water, waste,
and energy services) is among several companies, including McDonald’s, Costco, Dell, Hewlett-Packard,
Sara Lee, to name a few, who are targeted by BDS and local groups like “Stop Veolia Seattle.” According
to BDS, Transdev’s alleged “war crime” is that a subsidiary of Transdev Group, our parent company, is the
operator of a highly successful modern light rail system in the City of Jerusalem (the JLRT). Conceived
in the optimism following the 2001 Oslo Accords, it transports more than 100,000 passengers a day, is
open to people of all races, religions and nationalities, employs an equal number of Arabs and Jews in
its operation, and serves all parts of that ancient city. It enjoys high approval ratings among both Israeli
and Arab users, and ratings by Arab users alone are among the highest for any urban light rail system
in the world.4 The JLRT is controversial with no one except those aligned with the BDS movement who
call it unwanted infrastructure within “occupied territory.”
The ATU has recently joined with local BDS groups in certain locations where they share a common
target. With strong support from ATU leadership in Washington, D.C., they are attempting to discredit
companies that provide essential transit services to municipalities in the hope of converting employees
to be public, instead of private sector employees. They oppose the involvement of the private sector
in providing public transportation services nationwide, which today occurs in almost a third of the
transit industry. We are the largest private sector operator of public transportation in North America
with over 200 contracts with cities, airports and universities. We provide transportation expertise,
technology systems and management services that help cities deliver efficient quality transit that
improves mobility and quality of life. These false attacks have been turned away in most
100 every location they have been tried, but only after our efforts to educate those who
have been misled by them.

ATU International President Larry Hanley responds directly
to attempts to use a lack of understanding about BDS and the
Palestinian liberation struggle to attack our local coalition.
Excerpted from a reply dated April 14, 2015
Re: April 6, 2015 Letter from Transdev
Dear County Executive Constantine and Councilmembers,
In a spurious effort to distract from its lackluster performance record, Transdev leveled unfounded
accusations against the ATU in its April 6, 2015 letter. Specifically, it alleged that ATU has partnered with
a “front organization” for “anti-Israel activists” in its opposition to Transdev/Veolia. However, as you well
know, coalitions by definition are made up of groups which may have divergent beliefs who join together
on a particular issue. By entering into a coalition, members do not necessarily endorse each other’s full
agendas. Instead, ATU’s association with “Stop Veolia Seattle” is because of our common interest in the
effective functioning of the King County transit system. Although the Israel/Palestine conflict may be of
interest to our allies, ATU has no involvement in that issue. Our sole focus is ensuring that the citizens of
King County are provided with a fully-functional transit system and the well-paying jobs that go with it.

SVS and our partners refuse to allow Transdev or others to use the global outrage
directed at Veolia/Transdev for its complicity with Israeli violations of international
law through August 2015 as a way to somehow intimidate our elected officials into
dismissing its unfair labor practices, poor service and outright lies to King County.
SVS is grateful to be working in close partnership with the Transit Riders Union, the MLK County Labor Council,
ATU Local 587 and other local partners.

Join the effort to stop Veolia in Seattle:
stopveoliaseattle@gmail.com
stopveoliaseattle.wordpress.com

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