Acknowledgements and Thanks
(what follows is an excerpt of an article by Kirat Kaur, originally printed in Briarpatch magazine, November 2005)
The Vancouver Bus Riders Union is an anti-racist anti-sexist public health organization fighting to put the needs of transit dependent people at the centre of public policy. It was born early in the summer of 2001, just before a transit strike that quickly shifted from a struggle for better wages and working conditions for bus drivers, to a lock-out by the newly elected (neo)Liberal BC provincial government, that attacked workers' right to organize and paralyzed the lives of thousands of transit dependent people for 4 months. The BRU has been slowly but steadily gathering force; today we have over 950 members and thousands of supporters, and our On The Bus crew - a core group of committed organizers and leaders of the organization - has grown to an impressive number of 20. The Vancouver BRU was inspired by and modelled on the Bus Riders Union in Los Angeles, which has fought and won many transit struggles and is a strong example of a revolutionary community organization rooted in anti-imperialism and anti-racism.
The Vancouver BRU was formed by Latin American solidarity activists, anti-poverty organizers and anti-imperialist feminists who looked around the Vancouver 'activist scene' and saw the necessity of building a revolutionary new project that would prioritize organizing the unorganized and moving more people into class struggle. They picked the issue of transit to educate, organize and mobilize around.
The Bus Riders Union is a labour/community organization that is an experiment in Left movement building. We see the bus as a site of working class struggle - the majority of those who take the bus are workers on their way to or from a shitty job, women going to pick their kids up from underfunded and poor quality day care, immigrants and refugees going to job interviews for positions they won't get because they don't have enough 'Canadian experience', and others of the marginalized and disenfranchised classes. Every week we talk to people who struggle in a system that denies them their every human right while taking as much from them as possible to feed the greed of the few who are not, in fact, represented on the bus. As such, we see the bus as a potential site of resistance as well. We seek to reclaim the public space on the bus to open up a dialogue about our exploitation and use the space to mobilize people into action.