(CHICAGO) — For more than three years, Teamsters Local 777 has continued to fight for approximately 100 school bus drivers in Chicago who want nothing more than fair working conditions.
Their employer, Latino Express, has spared no expense in one legal battle after another to try to keep workers from improving their rights or gaining a voice in the workplace. On July 23, the National Labor Relations Board heard yet another case involving the company’s mistreatment of workers after Local 777 filed charges over the unlawful termination of a driver. The new hearing came just two months after the board ordered Latino Express to bargain in good faith with the Teamsters on May 21.
Since drivers first voted to join Local 777 in April 2011, Latino Express has appealed every decision issued by the NLRB, while refusing to negotiate with the men and women who make the company run.
“These drivers first sought representation with the Teamsters in 2011 because of company mistreatment, and management’s vindictive and heartless behavior hasn’t stopped,” said James T. Glimco, President of Local 777 and Trustee of Teamsters Joint Council 25. “But the Teamsters aren’t going to stop either. We must stand up for workers who are being taken advantage of at every turn.”
Unfair Labor Practice Charges
Latino Express drivers first unionized following four months of election delays initiated by the company in 2011. On August 3, 2012, the NLRB ruled in favor of Local 777’s first round of unfair labor practice charges. The board ordered Latino Express to reinstate two workers, Pedro Salgado and Carol Garcia, whom the company fired without just cause earlier that year.
The company appealed that ruling, but the NLRB filed an injunction to reinstate Salgado and Garcia. Latino Express finally gave the workers their jobs back when the injunction was upheld, but as of this year still has not repaid them for wages lost during termination.
In 2013, the NLRB issued another decision in the case and set a precedent for all American companies that unfairly fire employees. The board ordered Latino Express to reimburse workers for federal taxes owed on any outstanding wages following a termination and reinstatement. Not surprisingly, Latino Express appealed that ruling too.
“We’re dealing with a company that has already committed untold sums of money to preserve its intent to abuse workers and underpay employees,” said Elizabeth Gonzalez, Local 777 Trustee and Business Agent. “Yet this company is routinely awarded multi-million dollar contracts to oversee bus routes for Chicago Public Schools.
“Despite three years of fighting,” Gonzalez added, “justice still has not yet been served to protect these vulnerable workers.”
Latino Express has been a subcontractor for Chicago Public Schools for 17 years, managing about 85 bus routes throughout the school year.
Union Awaits Decision on Appeal
Following the NLRB ruling on May 21, the company is still required to bargain a first contract for workers over the next six months with the Teamsters. Latino Express’ appeal of this ruling now sits with the U.S. Court of Appeals and could potentially be recommended to the U.S. Supreme Court.
While Local 777 awaits a decision on the appeal, Latino Express has enlisted the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation to assist its campaign to silence workers. On two occasions, the company has submitted a petition to try to decertify the Teamsters as the workers’ exclusive bargaining representative. The NLRB has rejected it.
“The work that these men and women do to transport our children to and from school is too important not to protect,” said Glimco. “Latino Express will be held accountable for its actions and the Teamsters will secure a fair contract that respects the rights of Chicago school bus drivers.”
Teamsters Local 777 is an affiliate of Teamsters Joint Council 25, America’s premier labor union for Chicago, Illinois and northwest Indiana.