Who Are We?
The Stop Veolia Working Group is a group of individuals from the BDS, Labor and Disability Justice Communities that have come together to join national and international campaigns against Veolia, a French-based, multinational corporation that is one of the largest in an increasing global trend of privatizing public services, such as water, transportation and sanitation.
The Stop Veolia Working Group grew from a few people active in BDS and Palestinian solidarity work who chose to target Veolia because of its involvement in developing infrastructure in illegal Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land. Additionally, Veolia has connections to Seattle, where it holds a contract with Metro to run King County’s Access buses.
The original working group has joined forces with activists in the local Labor and Disability Justice communities to address Veolia’s violations of workers’ rights and its history of Union busting in Seattle, in addition to the inadequate service that Access provides to its users under the authority of Veolia.
Why Target Veolia?
In addition to its involvement in water privatization in Morocco and South Africa, accusations of bribery in Dubai, and pollution, fraud and work-place injuries in the U.S. (to cite just a few examples), Veolia is also deeply connected to the building and maintaining of illegal Israeli infrastructure in Palestine. Veolia has been involved in constructing a light rail from illegal Israeli settlements, built on annexed Palestinian land, to Jerusalem. Veolia is also operating segregated buses that run on Jewish-only roads, connecting settlements in the West Bank to Israel.
Additionally, Veolia is supervising the Tovlan landfill, a garbage dump for a major settlement bloc built on illegally annexed Palestinian farm land. The garbage in this landfill comes from Israel and its settlements, and is also a source of energy production, through the extraction of methane gas, for use exclusively in Israeli settlements. The Palestinian people do not have access to the electricity produced at the Tovlin landfill, and do not use the landfill, but they still comprise the site’s entire labor force where they work without contracts, below minimum wage, and without proper safety equipment.
Veolia is active in Seattle, too. In 1996, Veolia won a contract with King County to operate the Metro Access program despite the fact that Veolia would not employ union workers. There was a great deal of effort by the labor community to oppose the contract with Veolia; however, the county ignored these voices and proceeded with the Veolia contract. Not surprisingly, Veolia is involved in Union Busting in other cities as well, such as LA and Phoenix. The ATU, as well as the Disability Justice Community is not pleased with Veolia as a provider and cites frequent delays in service as one common issue.
National and international campaigns against Veolia have been powerful. For example, last winter In St. Louis, activists successfully put pressure on the city not to sign a contract with Veolia, which had placed a bid on the city’s water infrastructure. These efforts and more have forced Veolia to admit the toll that BDS and similar efforts have exacted on it financially.
What Are Our Goals?
Locally, we want King County divest from Veolia by not renewing their contract with the company when it ends in 2018. We also see our collective efforts as one way to build relationships between struggles and to develop the skills to work together collaboratively. We want to connect global solidarity to local activism in ways that renew our energy, support our work, and nourish our activist communities.
We also see the Stop Veolia Working Group as a facet of global efforts that are putting pressure on Veolia to stop its involvement in the development of illegal Israeli settlements. We see stopping Veolia as part of the larger work of supporting the liberation struggles of the Palestinian people and interfering in the infrastructure that is maintaining the continued colonization of Palestine.