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By Michael Rose
June 30 — Delegates to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters convention in Las Vegas June 29 approved a resolution calling for more organizing among school bus drivers, especially at Durham School Services, a subsidiary of British transportation services firm National Express.
The union also focused on pension issues on the convention's fourth day, calling for legislation to protect members' retirement security.
The Teamsters union began its “Drive Up Standards” campaign to organize U.S. school bus drivers in 2006. At the time, the union represented about 4,000 school bus drivers, and today represents about 46,000.
“We've grown tenfold in 10 years,” Rick Middleton, a Teamsters vice president, told the convention delegates. He said about half of the union's 440 locals now represent school bus drivers.
The union represents more than 20,000 workers at First Student, another school bus service provider, where Teamsters members ratified a national master contract last fall.
At Durham School Services, the Teamsters union represents some 20 percent of the workforce, Middleton said.
“Our locals continue to move the ball forward through collective bargaining, but this company made clear that one [organized] bus yard is one bus union too many,” he said. “They attack us and the workers we represent on every level. They harass and they intimidate workers that seek to organize.”
The resolution on school bus organizing said that “there are thousands more unorganized workers at National Express’s U.S. subsidiary Durham School Services,” and that the union was “committed to work with labor allies throughout the world to hold Durham and its parent company National Express accountable in every country they operate.”
National Express spokeswoman Molly Hart told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mailed statement June 30 the company “respects our employees’ right to choose representation or not, and when representation is chosen, we work with the respective union.”
“We are aware of the corporate campaign waged against us by the Teamsters and their goal of obtaining a neutrality agreement with National Express; however despite their attacks, we will continue to respect our employees’ rights to be informed and to freedom of association,” Hart said.
Meanwhile, a good chunk of the convention late June 29 was devoted to pension issues, and delegates approved a resolution on pensions.
The Central States pension plan, which serves Teamsters members and retirees, has struggled financially in recent years. Teamsters retirees were set to see their pensions cut, but those cuts were averted only after the Treasury Department denied the fund's application for restructuring.
“This first battle to protect our retirees and accrued benefits for our members is over, but now we are in for a bigger fight: finding funding for struggling pension funds through legislative means,” John Murphy, a Teamsters vice president, told the convention.
The resolution on pensions denounced the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act, which allowed the Central States fund to seek changes to pension payments.
“The Teamsters Union understands that any federal legislative effort to aid troubled multiemployer pension plans requires the participation and support of members and retirees,” the resolution said. “Therefore, local unions are encouraged to keep their members and retirees informed and educated about the funding crisis that confronts multiemployer pension plans and the reasons for such crisis.”
The resolution also expressed the union's support for “new approaches to address the funding crises affecting both multi-employer and single-employer pension funds.”
Convention delegates also heard from United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams June 29, who told Teamsters delegates that the UAW “has your back,” and praised the leadership of IBT President James P. Hoffa.
To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Rose in Las Vegas at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at email@example.com
Text of all the Teamsters convention resolutions is available at https://teamster.org/2016-ibt-convention-resolution.
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