Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Teamsters, ITF mourn tragic loss of Steve Edwards

We're cross-posting this tribute to Steve Edwards from the International Transport Workers Federation:
The ITF is greatly saddened by the tragic and unexpected departure of Steve Edwards. He passed away on 3 December 2012, aged 62, after a short illness. Steve has been based in Maryland, USA  for a decade,  first working as an SEIU staff member and later becoming an advisor to the Teamsters Union on their global school bus campaign. He was a strategic researcher and campaigner. Many will also fondly recall him as a senior activist in the British Transport & General Workers Union (now Unite the Union) in his earlier days. 
Privatisation and deregulation of the UK bus industry in the 1980s had smashed up a public monopoly but it soon turned into a private oligopoly where a handful of companies dominated the majority of the market through competitive mergers and take-overs. As a T&G convenor for the bus and rail company First Group, Steve was instrumental in building the union's shop steward network in the UK. 
It was only a matter of time before these British firms would start to acquire businesses overseas. Steve, a true internationalist, was integral to the promotion  of workers’ cooperation between the unions across the Big Pond and actively assisted the ITF's Urban Transport Multinational Network from its launch in 2000, bringing to it his vast knowledge and experience. 
When the activities of multinational companies started to grow in the public transport industries, the ITF and its affiliates could count on Steve Edwards, who would always offer his commitment in building workers' global strategy as a former bus worker, British union activist and American labor researcher and campaigner. Whatever his occupation may have been, Steve would fight against injustice towards the working people and firmly believed in common decency. 
He is well-known in the ITF family as the author of its very popular research paper on profiles of multi-national operators. Steve has long been part of the Teamsters campaign to organise school bus workers in First Student, a subsidiary of First Group. The union has peeled back layers of the company's anti-union pressure together with the ITF and its affiliates in Europe and successfully recruited more than 35,000 members in recent years, an outstanding victory which sets a precedent in trade union campaigns against multinational companies.
Steve's last attendance to an ITF meeting was its National Express Strategy meeting in September 2012 with delegates from US, Canada, UK, Spain and Germany. He is a graduate of the ITF Summer School in 2001. 
Mac Urata, Inland Transport Sections Secretary recalls one episode with Steve very vividly. "Back in December 2001, Steve and I were in St Louis, USA, visiting from the UK to express our solidarity towards First Student school bus workers who were on strike. That day, the union set a mediation meeting with the management through the NLRB so we joined. At first, the local managers were super rude and arrogant towards us. And they did not realise that two international visitors were in the room. When they found out, they panicked. They knew that every word they said could be transferred to the First Group headquarters. Soon they became completely disjointed. A good union leader would not miss an opportunity like this. After a 12 hour session which ended past midnight, the union leadership won most of the demands. We wiped the floor with their face!" 
He added. "That is where he first met his future wife, Tammy. That small victory was not only the beginning of their partnership, but our fight back against powerful multinationals in bus and rail sectors with a firm organising success. He and Tammy were instrumental in that delivery. We will pick up the fight where he left off but Steve will be greatly missed by us all".
Tributes to Steve can be sent to Mac Urata at
Read more here.