Procurement is a term used to describe the process school districts use to find private companies that run school transportation. Procurement laws vary from state to state, and they are very powerful tools in helping to set the standards for our working conditions.
We work at the state and local level to demand that the procurement process promotes contractors who are safe, responsible and good to their workers. Interested in the procurement laws in your state? Contact us
Teamster Power in Action: Illinois Teamsters Winning and Enforcing Good Procurement Laws
Prior to 2011, the state procurement law in Illinois forced school districts and other municipal boards to accept the lowest bidder for all contracts, including school transportation. This meant that many school districts and transit authorities had to award contracts to the lowest bidder, even if there were concerns that the company was a bad actor. This created a lot of concerns for parents and Teamsters school bus workers like us.
In 2011, Illinois Teamsters worked with a coalition of concerned citizens and various stakeholders to successfully lobby state lawmakers into passing a “responsible bidder” bill that changed procurement laws so school districts in Illinois could consider other factors when awarding contracts to transportation companies, such as safety, equipment standards and labor records. Thanks to the work of us and our allies, school districts are no longer handcuffed by laws that in some cases force them to hire the worst actors in the industry.
“Since we’ve passed this legislation, it really stabilized the industry,” explained Local 777 Principal Officer Jim Glimco. “Since school districts are now taking safety records into consideration, bus companies are making a commitment to safety and respect for our bus members. It’s good for the school districts, it’s good for parents, it’s good for the companies and it’s good for us.”
In 2012 we put our work into action.
For 21 years, West Aurora School District 129 had contracted with the bus company Richlee to provide transportation for students with special needs. Safety concerns at Richlee were documented by the workers. The equipment was not up to code. Drivers were often asked to drive unsafe buses. Parents reported that buses were regularly late and that the bus company ignored complaints about their children being put in harm’s way.
In response to these concerns, our union began meeting with the superintendent of the school district and members of the school board. Together with parents and community members we brought a number of safety concerns to light, many of which had been ignored by the company. When the contract expired, the school district issued a Request for Proposals (RFP). With the attention brought to safety issues the school board exerted its power under the new law, opting not to renew its contract with Richlee Corporation even though they submitted the lowest bid.
The story of the work we did to change procurement laws in the state and then enforce those laws is just one example of how the union has used its political power to create legislative change that makes sure contract bidding benefits students, their families and their bus drivers.