By Rick Middleton, IBT Passenger Transportation Division Director
Teamster Brothers and Sisters,
It has been nearly a year since General President James P. Hoffa announced the creation of the newest trade division in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters - the Passenger Transportation Division. As Secretary-Treasurer of Local 572 and Western Region International Vice President, I have seen the growth of Teamster power in this industry, and as the Director of the Passenger Transportation Division, I am committed to using that power to benefit each and every one of our members.
I wanted to take this opportunity to catch you up to speed on what the division, YOUR division, has been up to in our first year. I am proud to announce that we have continued to grow our union and increase our density in this industry. The passengers we carry are very different, and so are the experiences of our members. It is our job at the division to support each and every local so that we continue to raise standards. Our goal from the beginning was to grow our membership, use our power to support good companies and hold bad companies accountable.
I am happy to report that our national relationship with FirstGroup (First Student, First Transit, First Vehicle and Greyhound) continues to create opportunities to raise standards through negotiations and address issues before they become problems locally. The National Master Agreement is an important tool for members and locals to address issues of national concern. We continue to work to bring the other major players in the industry in line with the high standards we have secured with FirstGroup.
In the school transportation portion of the division, I am encouraged by recent developments with the third largest private school bus contractor in North America, Student Transportation, Inc., also known as STA. I am encouraged by the news of a partnership between Ullico, Inc. and the Quebec Deposit and Investment Fund (CDPQ) to acquire STA in the coming months. The Teamsters Union supports this move and believes that with new ownership, there is the potential for a start to a new chapter with STA that will see improved relations that will benefit our members and all STA workers. I have asked Division Representative Jim Shurling, who is also President of Local 512 and Joint Council 75, to oversee our efforts as we move forward on this exciting venture.
I remain hopeful that a similar shift can occur with the second-largest North American school bus company, National Express (NEX)/Durham School Services. The situation there is incredibly fluid. As I write this message, the future is uncertain. General President Hoffa and I met with senior leadership at NEX in March 2018, and were disappointed by the company’s unwillingness to move forward on a concrete commitment to respecting workers rights during elections. Based on their disregard for the interests of our members and their employees as a whole, we are left with no choice but to hold them accountable. While we remain hopeful that the company will do the right thing, we are committed to working with our locals and our union allies throughout NEX’s global operations to use every legal means possible to inform all interested parties of the company’s behavior.
One company in the school bus industry that you may not have heard of is North American Central School Bus. Originating in Illinois as Illinois Central School Bus, this company continues to expand its operations throughout North America. I am very proud to announce the success of Central Division Representative Jim Glimco and our entire negotiating committee in securing a master agreement with North American Central School Bus Company, our second master agreement in the school bus industry. These agreements help set standards in the industry and add another important layer of protections for our members.
As we look to the future, I am confident that we will succeed in solidifying our role as the leading voice for workers in the school bus industry. It is only natural from there that we make the same effort on behalf of our members in other areas of passenger transportation: paratransit, shuttle, coach and fixed routes. The same small group of companies dominates the passenger transportation industry as a whole, and it is up to us to demand that our members are a priority in their operations. I look forward to working with each and every local with members in the Passenger Transportation Division so we can secure strong agreements and set high standards throughout the industry.
Richard E. Middleton