1,700 Long Island Bus Workers Win Union Representation!
Over 1,700 Long Island bus workers won union representation last Friday after the workers launched a strong organizing drive with Teamsters Local 1205. The victory is the result of a hard fight by the workers, the union, and their allies. The employer, Baumann Bus, was in strong opposition to the union.
The workers—drivers, driver assistants, and mechanics—began organizing in the spring of 2009 and formed organizing committees in their nine different yards. The workers' reasons for wanting a union were strong: they were not paid for the hours worked, were spending a large portion of their personal paychecks on health care, and experienced degrading workplace conditions. When the employers got word that the workers were organizing, they started attaching anti-union letters to their paychecks, boldly stating, “Don’t sign up with the Teamsters—tell them we don’t want them around here!”
The workers filed ten unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board before November 1st, 2009. The charges include: spying on workers who are speaking to one another about the union; telling Latino and Haitian workers that they must be U.S. citizens to vote in the union; and scaring the workers into believing that if a union is voted in, the company will close down its facilities and open up under a new name. In addition to these illegal activities, Baumann hired thirteen high priced union “avoidance” consultants, estimated to cost the company $3,000 a day for each union-buster. Unfair and illegal practices like these are clear examples of why we must pass the Employee Free Choice Act.
With this kind of strong anti-union campaigning on the part of the employer, only a fierce organizing campaign, committed workers, and strong allies could lead to such a historic win for the Long Island Labor Movement. At a high point in the campaign, the workers held a rally with more than 800 workers and supporters!
To further support the organizing drive, local community groups and politicians signed nearly 50 “Appeal for Justice” letters directed at the employers. As a final pressuring tactic, Long Island Jobs with Justice and the Long Island Federation of Labor put together a “Monitoring Commission” in coordination with the Teamsters. The Commission made a report that documented the employers’ illegal activities and demanded that Baumann stop intimidating the workers.
The diligence of the workers, the union, and their allies certainly paid off on Friday when over 1,700 bus workers won union representation. The fight is not over, however, until we ensure that the workers are granted a fair first contract. Long Island Jobs with Justice will continue to support the workers in their struggle, and we hope that the employers learned a lesson from their failed anti-union drive and will negotiate in good faith.
We’ll be watching.
Charlene Obernauer is an organizer at Long Island Jobs with Justice.