Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sweatshops on Wheels: Durham School Bus Drivers Organizing With Teamsters

School bus drivers with Durham School Services in Hayward and Livermore, California (near San Francisco) are organizing with the Teamsters to fight their terrible working conditions. The 180 drivers will vote on February 17 whether or not to join the Teamsters. Since the “Drive Up Standards” campaign began in 2006, more than 32,400 drivers, monitors, aides, attendants and mechanics have joined the Teamsters according to the Sacramento Bee..

Durham drivers have complained about being forced to drive old, beat up vehicles that regularly break down on the job, lack functioning air conditioning and have holes in the floors, the San Jose Mercury News reported last week. One driver said the brakes went out on her in front of her home.

Drivers do not have paid sick leave and the health insurance offered by Durham is so expensive that many go without. As a result, drivers have no choice but to come to work when they are sick, which not only exposes students to their germs, but may also reduce their alertness and concentration behind the wheel.

Durham, the second largest provider of school bus transportation services in the United States, provides transportation to 11 school districts in northern California. Durham is a subsidiary of National Express Group, a large multinational corporation based in the UK. John Logan, who is a Professor at San Francisco State University and Visiting Research Fellow at University of California-Berkeley, recently published a report detailing National Express Group's anti-worker behavior in the U.S. and its failure to uphold international labor rights standards.   

In September, National Express Group purchased Petermann Bus Company for $200 million, according to the Mercury News. Peterman drives special needs children to school in Oakland. Drivers are furious that their employer is shelling out millions to buy another bus company, but cannot afford to have replacement busses on hand when there are breakdowns. If an extra bus cannot be found, the driver is sent home and the company hires a taxi to drive the students, even though cab drivers are not fingerprinted or subjected to background checks like other school employees.
Earlier this month, school bus drivers, aides and mechanics with Durham School Services in Elgin, Illinois, voted by a nearly 2 to 1 margin to join Teamsters Local 330, culminating a two year organizing effort. As in the current struggle in San Leandro and Hayward, the Illinois drivers were confronted with an assortment of bullying and harassment tactics by their bosses. Workers were given anti-union literature, for example, and were forced to attend anti-union meetings held by their employers.

To see more interviews with drivers, click on any of the following links:

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