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Union 101

What Every Bus Worker Needs To Know About Forming A Union With The Teamsters

Prepared By School Bus Teamsters

What Is A Union?

A union is a group of workers who come to together to better their work lives and improve their pay, benefits and working conditions. The workers are the union.

What Are Our Rights To Form Our Union?

We have a legal, civil, human and moral right to form our union. The National Labor Relations Act states that workers have the legal right to form a union and to undertake activities to form a union. It is illegal for an employer to harass or discriminate against us for forming our union. Here is a list of the things your employer and supervisor cannot legally do.

What Do The Teamsters Know About School Bus Workers?

The Teamsters represent more than 50,000 bus workers in hundreds of yards across the U.S. and Canada. In these yards, the Teamsters have worked in partnership with members to negotiate contracts, address workplace issues, end favoritism and promote fairness and respect for workers.

The Teamsters’ Drive Up Standards Campaign is a national movement of school bus workers aimed at raising standards in the school bus industry. Since 2006, more than 35,000 school bus drivers, monitors, attendants, aides and mechanics have joined the Teamsters to improve standards. One result has been a national Master Agreement with First Student, the largest U.S. school bus contractor. This agreement secures standardized work rules, a grievance procedure, Family Medical Leave Act and much more for all current and future First Student Teamsters. Learn more about the historic Master Agreement for Teamsters at First Student.

How Can Forming A Union Help Us Improve Our Jobs?

Once we form our union, the company will be required by law to bargain in good faith with us through our union. The bargaining process will result in a legally binding agreement that will protect our pay, benefits and working conditions. Every bargaining cycle gives workers the opportunity to put upward pressure on the company to improve standards.

Forming a union is the single most effective way workers can make improvements at work. Reports from the U.S. Department of Labor show that union workers make, on average, 28 percent more than their non-union counterparts and have better benefits and working conditions, too.

The Teamsters study of First Student school bus workers showed that Teamster First Student workers earned $2 more per hour than the non-union workers, in addition to a number of other benefits and protections.

Having a union means increased respect, a fair grievance procedure that enables us to effectively address workplace problems and issues and a voice over pay, benefits and working conditions.

What Is The Process For Forming A Union?

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is a third-party agency that conducts union elections. The elections are generally held on site at our yard and are by secret ballot election.

First, we form an organizing committee—a group of workers who are willing to lead an organizing campaign to form a union. Second, we talk to each of our co-workers about forming a union. If there is enough support, we collect union authorization cards. Those cards, which we sign to show our support for the union, are submitted with a petition for an election to the NLRB. An election should be held by the Board within 42 days of when we submit these documents. We work with the Teamsters, and often reach out to political, community and faith leaders who support us during our campaign.

Once we win our election we will elect our shop stewards—these are the individuals who are trained to help us solve workplace issues. We also elect a negotiating team. We determine our priorities for what we want in our contract and those priorities are put into written contract proposals. Then, negotiations with the company take place between our coworkers on the negotiating team and company representatives. This team is led by an experienced negotiator from the Teamsters.

Negotiations for a first contract can take time—it is important to be patient and recognize that we need to get it right rather than do it fast. Once a tentative agreement is reached with the company on all items, the membership votes on the new contract. If they accept it, we have our first contract. If they reject it, the parties go back to the bargaining table.

What Are The Union Dues?

The Teamsters’ union dues are 2.5 times your hourly rate one time a month—if you earn more than $11 an hour. (That means if you earn $15 per hour, your monthly dues would be $37.50 once a month). If you earn under $11 dollars your dues are two times your hourly rate one time a month. Dues may vary slightly depending on the local union—so check. There is no initiation fee. During summer and other times we are not working, we do not pay union dues. You do not pay union dues until the first contract is ratified by the members.

The Teamsters receive no money from outside the union and rely completely on member dues. This maintains Teamster integrity and commitment only to the members. Dues goes to pay for the union office, experts who handle workplace issues and negotiate contracts, legal experts, and communications and research assistance to best represent the members.

What Might The Company Do Once We Start To Form Our Union?

Common anti-worker/anti-union practices include the company using managers, office workers and others to try to scare and confuse us. They may also hold one-on-one meetings, mandatory meetings and distribute anti-union literature. Once the election is over, the company will stop this abuse.

Interested in forming a union in your workplace or have questions? Contact us here or call our Drive Up Standards hotline at (866) 832-6787.