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Veolia, the Israeli Occupation and Grand Rapids contracts

August 16, 2012

Last year we reported on the potential water privatization campaign in Grand Rapids with the French multinational corporation Veolia. The City of Grand Rapids decided not to go the privatization route, but it is important to note that the City of Grand Rapids does currently contract with Veolia, which runs the steam-heating system for much of the downtown area.

Veolia Energy serves the business district with centrally-produced steam. Customers include: hospitals; college campuses; sports arena and exhibition center; prestigious office buildings and retail store fronts; city, state and county government facilities; private apartment buildings and arts and culture centers. The contracts for Grand Rapids (Grand Valley State University), Michigan is set to end in 2013. In 2010, Veolia Energy renewed its agreement with Grand Valley State University (GVSU) to continue to provide thermal heating services to its Pew Grand Rapids Campus.

Veolia is currently being targeted by numerous solidarity groups because of a contract they have with the State of Israel for a light rail system. The following information on this national campaign is re-posted from the End the Occupation Campaign.

Last month, our newest coalition member group North Coast Coalition for Palestine caught the attention of corporate America, multinationals, and official representatives of the State of Israel when they challenged renewal of a local bus operating contract with Veolia, a French conglomerate heavily implicated in the Israeli occupation.

In a stirring 5-hour session of testimonies, Sonoma County, CA residents put the Israeli occupation and its corporate enablers on trial.

It was historic. The diverse, unpaid group of Palestinians, Jews, artists, teachers, students, veterans, and activists were simply asking for the local Commission on Human Rights to recommend that the Board of Supervisors investigate Veolia prior to renewing contracts in 2014. Their request prompted the multinational to fly in two Vice Presidents and the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco to send their Deputy Consul General to monitor and testify at the hearings.

This is what the future of our movement could look like — local communities putting the occupation and its US institutional supporters on trial in courthouses, town halls, and municipal departments across the nation, in truly grassroots and democratic campaigns with global reach.

Veolia has been a major target of international Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaigns due to its deep involvement in the segregated transit system serving primarily the Jewish settlements of West Bank and Jerusalem, and operation of the Tovian waste dump in the Jordan Valley — all in violation of international law.

Does your city have Veolia contracts? Click here to find out!

Next week, organizers of the DumpVeolia.LA Campaign will be waging a similar effort to challenge renewal of Los Angeles city bus contracts with Veolia at a local Transportation Committee public hearing. They are asking for your help!

TAKE ACTION! Please click here to sign a petition to the LA Department of Transportation and City Council, asking them to stop doing business with Veolia!

Member groups in Boston, Baltimore, Sacramento, and beyond have launched exciting Veolia campaigns. The national We Divest Campaign, with more than a dozen active campaigns around the U.S., is calling on financial giant TIAA-CREF to divest from Veolia, among other companies.

Veolia is no stranger to such efforts. Over the past six years, across Europe and the world, major banks, municipalities, and other significant bodies have divested, boycotted, or otherwise severed relations with the corporation following pressure from trade unions, Ministers of Parliament, students, pension fund boards, church task forces, and others. Through dozens of BDS victories, the company has lost an estimated $12.6 billion in lost contracts. Imagine its concern seeing Veolia campaigns on the rise today in the United States!

Click here to see how you can join the new wave of campaigns putting U.S. Veolia BDS activism on the map. Don’t have local Veolia contracts? Great! Start a campaign to declare your community “Veolia-free”!

And remember, Veolia is just one possibility. Consider organizing to pass a City Council resolution against military aid to Israel, freeing funds for unmet needs in your community. Click here to check out our “Fund Community Needs, Not Israel’s Misdeeds” website and How-To Guide.

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