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Teamsters, Community Leaders Speak Before Rhinebeck School Board

School bus drivers and monitors, along with Teamsters Local 445 and New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) leaders, spoke out at Tuesday night’s Rhinebeck School Board meeting about their ongoing fight for a fair contract from Durham School Services.

More than 165 school bus drivers and monitors in the Hudson Valley, N.Y., have been seeking a fair contract for nine months from Durham. The company, a subsidiary of a British multinational transportation firm, contracts with Rhinebeck, Spackenkill and Dutchess BOCES school districts to provide student transportation.

“Durham has refused to budge on the important issues of safety and turnover. They didn’t move an inch forward when we were working with a federal mediator to try and resolve these issues. Their chief negotiator has not been in the Hudson Valley since March 18. That’s how much they care about our school bus workers, our children and our community,” Adrian Huff, principal officer of Teamsters Local 445, told the Board. “This contractor has a viable, reasonable solution before them. They can accept our offer of a neutral third-party arbitrator to do the right thing and move forward or they can continue to defiantly oppose any progress. The choice should be clear.”

On June 7, Rock Tavern-based Local 445 proposed to Durham the option of an independent third-party arbitrator. The arbitrator would listen to both sides, and put a contract into effect, while prohibiting either party from striking or staging a lock out.

“We fully support the school bus workers in their fight for a better contract,” Mary Beth Scattergood, NYSUT Hyde Park local union president, told the Board. “As a teacher, a parent and a resident of Rhinebeck, I know that there is absolutely no downside to having these two parties settle their dispute through an arbitrator.”

“We feel a deep sense of responsibility to the children we transport, to their parents and to our community. We want to be able to do our jobs, but for that to happen, the company’s stalling tactics have to end,” said Eva Young, a Durham driver. “Durham has already spent approximately $800,000 on replacement workers to do the jobs that we are certified and trained to do. They think they can ignore us and this will go away, but it won’t. We are the ones coming up with the solutions, and it’s time they become a part of the solution with us, not the problem.”