Page 9 - Work Force February 2016
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Bus company’s management decisions put kids at risk
Newly organized CSEA members use union power to fix safety issues
 Bus drivers and monitors employed by Durham Bus Services celebrate joining CSEA.
ALBANY — Bus drivers and monitors who transport children
in the Albany City School District and are employed by Durham School Services, the transportation contractor for the district, voted to join CSEA last month.
They are wasting no time using their newfound union strength.
Frustrated with their employer’s lack of response to critical safety concerns and recent retaliatory firings of good, safe drivers following the union vote, drivers and monitors found themselves in dangerously low staffing situations that put the kids they are charged with keeping safe at risk.
The group fought back with zeal. With CSEA support, they bravely brought scathing stories to the press, garnering much needed
exposure, including the front page of a local newspaper, placing significant pressure on Durham officials to hire more drivers and work with them to improve safety.
Using the momentum they gained in the press coverage, they then brought their concerns directly
to the district and Parent-Teacher Association, getting the greater community involved.
“It is dangerous for us to rush through a bus run, especially when it is unfamiliar,” said Amy Burns,
a driver. “Unfortunately, Durham management has ignored us when we raised safety concerns in the past and this is why we recently voted to join CSEA. We organized because we felt we needed a way
to have our concerns heard by management. Instead of choosing to
work with us to make improvements, Durham chose intimidation tactics and chilling terminations of good workers and safe drivers, causing a whole new set of problems. They are losing focus on what our priority is.”
Workers experienced violent incidents and expressed the need for working security cameras with no response. With Durham officials dragging their feet, the drivers and monitors felt their safety concerns were too urgent to wait for union contract negotiations to begin.
“Durham needs to be accountable for their decisions and actions,” said Stephanie Dawson, also a driver. “They are funded to do this work with taxpayer money. We don’t think they should be able to operate this way, shortchanging the public and keeping everyone in the dark.”
CSEA filed an unfair labor
practice charge with the state Public Employment Relations Board on the terminated workers’ behalf. Before this was settled completely, Durham came around and recently returned four out of the five drivers for whom the charge was filed on their behalf back to work (one wished not to return) and began discussing hiring more staff. They also made a request to get to the negotiating table as quickly as possible to discuss solutions, a big change from their previous stance.
This is a great example that private companies who outsource public work in our communities need to be held accountable and the best way to do that is with a strong union.
— Jill Asencio
 February 2016
The Work Force 9

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