From The Boston Globe:
Clergy take bidder for MBTA rail deal to task
By Martine Powers | GLOBE STAFF DECEMBER 19, 2013
“A group of well-known black clergy in Boston is lambasting one of the two bidders for the MBTA’s commuter rail contract, asserting that the company’s majority shareholder has engaged in discriminatory employment practices in Europe.”
“The clergy’s concerns center on SNCF, the state-owned French railway that is the majority shareholder of Keolis. SNCF has faced allegations of discrimination against African and Muslim employees and has been criticized for collaborating with the Nazis 70 years ago.”
FULL STORY HERE: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/12/19/clergy-take-commuter-rail-bidder/JDoLS1j5TgIP3TjgzTnUGI/story.html
From Blackstonian Publisher/Editor Jamarhl Crawford
The MBTA Commuter Rail contract is up for bid and one of the corporations bidding worked with the Nazis. You can’t make this stuff up. Americans are very forgiving when it comes to genocide and racism. After all they forgave themselves for the genocide of natives that established America and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade that built it up. Coca-Cola was a villain before the fall of Apartheid, but folks had a coke and a smile and forgot about that and the soft drink giant is still America’s #1 choice and enjoys lucrative contracts with McDonald’s and stadiums across the US. Volkswagen was famous for transporting Jews during the Nazi regime and IBM created the machines used to count and categorize Jews as they were sent to concentration camps. Oh well, all is forgiven. Let bygones be bygones. America has short term memory loss when they are not the party offended.
Here in Boston we seem to suffer from the same problem. Incidents of racism and hate crimes are swept under the rug and the perpetrators are allowed to continue business as usual. Wang Center Director Josiah Spaulding jr. didn’t even experience a bump in the road when his neo-nazi skinhead son Josiah A. Spaulding III beat to unconsciousness 3 teenage girls in the Park St. concourse of the MBTA. The entire mess that was Boston Busing and the years of racial tensions after it have almost been wiped from memory. The Charles Stuart case and its aftermath has never been truly dealt with in order to heal. Not to mention the countless cases of Black, Latino & Cape Verdean people who have been shot & killed by the Boston Police.
It is my hope that in this case we will not dismiss involvement with the Nazis because it happened “so long” ago. It is incumbent on us as humans to make sure that those who participated or profited in human suffering are not allowed to continue to do business. Keolis transported 76,000 Jews to their certain deaths at Concentration Camps and now they want to take over the contract for MBTA Commuter Rail who ‘s daily ridership is 127,500. If you do a simple search on the company Keolis you will find red flags all over the place, they just removed the white circle and black swastika. Are we really surprised that a company that did business with the Nazis in its modern incarnation would practice discrimination and racism? Shocker. Click here to see more information on Keolis.
Read Below for a few interesting stories….
Maryland governor signs French railway Holocaust bill
from BBC News http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13465273
A US governor has signed a bill requiring a French railway company to disclose its role in the Holocaust if it is to win state contracts.
Martin O’Malley of Maryland signed a bill aimed at Keolis, a Paris company owned by French national railways SNCF.
The company had bid to operate commuter trains in the state of Maryland.
Historians say SNCF moved 76,000 Jews to Nazi camps during the Holocaust. The laws’ supporters say it will force disclosure of war records.
“We hope this legislation can become a national model sooner rather than later so that Holocaust survivors who are still with us can know that the atrocities inflicted upon their families and their people will remain in our minds, will never be forgotten and will never be repeated,” Mr O’Malley said on Thursday.
According to the bill, the first of its kind passed in the US, companies that were involved in the deportation of Holocaust victims that seek contracts with Maryland’s commuter rail system would have to make company records pertaining to their role available online to the public.
The company records required to be disclosed include internal memoranda, receipts, invoices, audits and correspondence.
In addition, the companies would have to provide an account of property confiscated from Holocaust victims and an account of restitution paid.
The bill is specifically aimed at an American arm of Keolis, a Paris-based company whose majority shareholder is French railroad Societe National de Chemins de Fer, or SNCF.
Rail Page by: Sir Nigel Gresley
A group of well-known black clergy in Boston is lambasting one of the two bidders for the MBTA’s commuter rail contract, asserting that the company’s majority shareholder has engaged in discriminatory employment practices in Europe .
The religious leaders, including the Rev. Bruce H. Wall and the Rev. Mark V. Scott, delivered a letter to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Wednesday afternoon, calling on the T’s general manager, Beverly A. Scott, to reject the bid by Keolis Commuter Services against the company that currently operates the state’s commuter rail network.
The timing of the letter, in the final days of a highly competitive bidding process, sparked an angry retort from a Keolis spokesman, who accused Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. of making a thinly veiled attempt at vilifying its sole competitor.
Keolis maintained that the actions of its majority shareholder had little to do with its own operations, that its railway operation in Virginia has a strong record on diversity, and that MBCR’s shareholders have their own problems, too.
The clergy’s concerns center on SNCF, the state-owned French railway that is the majority shareholder of Keolis. SNCF has faced allegations of discrimination against African and Muslim employees and has been criticized for collaborating with the Nazis 70 years ago.
“We are strongly opposed to the bid submitted by Keolis to take over the contract for running the commuter rail in the greater Boston area,” states the letter, signed by six pastors in Boston’s black community. SNCF “has a very long history of innumerable instances of racism and discrimination.”
The pastors are seeking a meeting with Beverly Scott and Governor Deval Patrick to discuss the commuter rail contract. Their offices did not return calls for comment Wednesday.
Alan Eisner, spokesman for Keolis, said in a statement that the allegations from the ministers do not tell the whole story, maintaining that Keolis is a distinct company that operates outside SNCF’s management structure.
Eisner also asserted that the Virginia Railway Express, Keolis’s only existing rail operation in the United States, has prioritized diversity, with a staff that is 45 percent African-American and 20 percent women. He said the company has committed to focus much of their hiring and training efforts on minority populations.
“This letter is a shameful, last-minute attempt by MBCR to use a group of highly respected, but uninformed Boston ministers to protect MBCR’s financial interests and draw attention away from MBCR’s dreadful 10-year management of the MBTA commuter rail system,” Eisner said.
The pastors said the idea that he was working to aid MBCR was false. Mark Scott said he was not aware of ever meeting or speaking to any representative of MBCR. Wall said the topic was mentioned in passing during his call-in radio show, which led him to seek out news reports about the company’s past.
“All the information that I have has come as a result of my own research,” Wall said. “I’m like a dog that won’t let go of a bone.”
The commuter rail’s contract expires in June 2014, and two bidders are vying to run the system for the next 10 years: MBCR, which is led by former MBTA officials, and Keolis, an international transit giant. Officials are expected to select the winning bid within the next several months.
The $1 billion-plus contract is the largest operating contract in state history.
“How can we sit by and let MassDOT even entertain a bid from a company that has all this baggage of racial discrimination? It’s just unbelievable,” said Wall, of Global Ministries Christian Church in Dorchester.
Eisner said he wished the clergy had contacted Keolis about their concerns.
“It’s unfortunate that the ministers gave the letter to The Boston Globe without contacting Keolis to understand how Keolis plans to enhance diversity within the MBTA commuter rail system, such as working with the state’s community colleges to provide first-in-the-nation, specialized degrees in transportation,” Eisner said.
The letter cited multiple allegations of racial discrimination, previously reported in French or international news organizations, including a 2010 lawsuit filed by hundreds of SNCF staff against their employer for victimizing workers of North African origin. That lawsuit,described in France’s English-language newspaper The Connexi…, alleged that North African workers were passed over for job opportunities and received smaller pensions than their French-born counterparts.
The letter also pointed to widespread reports in April that SNCF’s black workers were all removed from Gare du Nord, one of Paris’s busiest train stations during a visit by President Shimon Peres of Israel, in an effort to prevent him from encountering Muslim workers.
“For young black and brown people, the commuter rail represents an opportunity to gain employment,” the letter said, “which may be hindered by the operation of the commuter rail by Keolis if the history of SNCF is any indication.”
The letter also incorporated other reports of ethnic or religious discrimination:
In 2010, the BBC reported that the French rail company apologized for distributing a note to passengers that called on them to report “all the activities of Romanians” to rail security in response to a rash of baggage thefts.
And earlier this year, the Agence France-Presse reported that US Senator Charles E. Schumer intended to introduce a bill that would allow American victims of the Holocaust to file lawsuits against SNCF in US courts. In 2010, the company apologized for the role it played transporting Jewish people in Europe to concentration camps, but maintained that the company was commandeered by Nazi leaders and that thousands of their own employees were ultimately executed or deported.
Wall said that the contingent of religious leaders are looking to travel to France to interview the rail operator and its employees in person in an effort to learn about the company’s employment practices.
But MBCR’s corporate structure is also fraught with controversy: The train company’s majority shareholder, Paris-based Veolia Transportation, operates buses for the Boston public schools and locked horns with union members in October in a clash that prompted a wildcat strike. Veolia fired two of the bus drivers, though they were unionized employees. Eisner also pointed out that MBCR is 20 percent owned by Bombardier Transportation, a company that Eisner said has its own ties to Nazi Germany.
Wall said he has not had any conversations with Keolis’s competitor, MBCR, and said he had no plans to investigate the background of MBCR’s parent company, Veolia.
Both ministers said they did not put stock in Keolis’s argument that the majority stakeholder should be considered separate from the company at question in the T’s commuter rail contract.
“No, I don’t see a difference, not at all,” Wall said.
“With SNCF being a major stakeholder, they’ve got to have a huge influence on how Keolis does businesses and their corporate culture,” Scott said. “I don’t buy that.”
Eisner said Keolis officials wanted to meet with the black clergy to allay their unease.
“Keolis is very proud of its history and its reputation in the industry, and we feel that we would be a great asset for the MBTA,” Eisner said in a statement. “We would welcome the opportunity to meet with the ministers to discuss any and all of their concerns.”