December 18, 2014
By Stephanie West
Washington DC – School bus drivers and monitors in Santa Rosa County, Fla., who are members of Teamsters Local 991 in Mobile, Alabama, have won another victory in a decision handed down by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The December 4 ruling orders the employer, Durham School Services, to "cease and desist" failing and refusing to recognize and bargain with Teamsters Local 991.
"We applaud the NLRB's decision. It's time for this company to recognize the workers' decision to be represented by the Teamsters Union," said Jim Gookins, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 991.
"It's wonderful news, but it's only wonderful news if Durham will adhere to the Board's request," said Diane Bence, a Durham school bus driver who helped lead the charge to join Teamsters Local 991. "My co-workers and I will remain vigilant and continue to urge management to meet with the Teamsters to begin the collective bargaining process."
Bence is one of 180 Durham school bus drivers and monitors who transport children to schools in Milton, Pace and Navarre, Fla. Since voting overwhelmingly in February 2013 to join the Teamsters Union, she and her fellow school bus workers have been fighting alongside their union to gain recognition from Durham School Services, the nation's second-largest student transportation contractor.
On May 9, the NLRB in Washington, D.C., ordered certification of the election and found appeals by Durham to overturn the 2013 election had no merit. Two weeks later, Durham's attorney responded with a letter to Teamsters Local 991, defiantly stating its "refusal to bargain."
Despite the opposition from management, however, the Santa Rosa workers refuse to be scared or silenced. In September of this year, they participated in a "just practicing" picket outside the school district's Professional Development Center to protest Durham's failure to follow federal labor laws. The drivers and monitors have stood united since their Teamster election, appearing at Santa Rosa County School District School Board meetings to raise serious school bus safety concerns.
"After 22 months, this company needs to abide by the law and bargain a fair contract expeditiously and in good faith," said Gookins, who reached out to Durham management in Navarre, Florida, the same day the Board announced their decision. Durham has still yet to provide a response.
The Teamsters represent Durham workers across the United States. IBT has worked hard to improve safety, service and work standards in the private school bus and transit industry. Since 2006, more than 37,800 North American school bus and transit workers have become Teamsters.