School bus drivers and monitors who work at Durham School Services in Chattanooga voted Thursday night to join Teamsters Local 327. The 269 workers will join thousands of other Durham employees nationwide already represented by the Teamsters.
From the beginning of the nearly year-long organizing effort, safety issues have been at the top of the agenda, said officials. Drivers and monitors started organizing after a tragic 2016 school bus accident took the lives of six school children.
“After the accident, the drivers and monitors were concerned because there were still serious safety issues and the workers didn’t feel like they had a voice," said Local 327 President Joe Bennett. "That has been a big part of the organizing effort. What we saw on the buses, it just affected the drivers, monitors and students.”
Other workplace issues were also important, such as wages, benefits, seniority and an end to favoritism on the job, but it went beyond that as well, said officials. “They wanted the respect and dignity they deserve, and they didn’t feel they got that when there were issues on the buses,”said Mr. Bennett. “They weren’t getting the support they needed.”
Mr. Bennett said he is committed to working with every Durham worker in Chattanooga, bringing the together to demand needed improvements. He said, "The support and encouragement from the IBT and Durham school bus workers from all over the country played a major role in the decision."