(CHARLESTON, S.C.) – Teamster school bus drivers and monitors were joined by members of the British Parliament, parents, community, political and faith leaders, as well as representatives from Teamsters Local 509 at tonight’s Community Forum on School Bus Transportation, hosted by S.C. state representatives Wendell Gilliard and David Mack.
School bus drivers and monitors from Charleston shared their concerns over ongoing serious workplace safety and service issues with Durham School Services, the contractor for Charleston County Schools. The forum was hosted at the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1422 hall in Charleston.
Ian Lavery and Jim Sheridan, visiting members of the British Parliament, took part in the forum to learn about the state of student transportation in Charleston. Durham is a subsidiary of National Express Group PLC (NEX: LN), a United Kingdom-based multinational transportation company, and the second-largest school bus company in the United States, holding contracts with three South Carolina school districts.
“If anyone can tell me why hardworking people in the United States should be treated different from hardworking people in the U.K. at the same company, I’ll listen. All school bus workers should be treated with respect and have workplace protection to protect the kids,” Lavery said. “We will be looking at the issues and taking all concerns back to this company’s shareholders in the United Kingdom.”
Kathy Richardson, a nine-year Durham driver and shop steward with Columbia, S.C.-based Teamsters Local 509, spoke out about continued concerns with Durham’s operations.
“We have serious issues with the school buses that Durham is responsible for maintaining. I deserve better, my fellow school bus drivers and monitors deserve better, and certainly the reason we do this job—the children we transport—deserve better,” Richardson said.
“A child in the United States of America is just as important as a child in the U.K. What we’ve heard from the drivers leaves a lot to be desired and the company needs to sit down with the unions because it is every worker’s fundamental right,” said Sheridan, who in addition to his parliamentary duties serves as chair of Unite the Union’s parliamentary group. Unite the Union is the Teamsters’ sister union in the United Kingdom.
“This is about our children and appreciating the drivers and monitors for what they do for our community. We stand together on these issues,” said Rep. Wendell Gillard (District 111).
“I’m so impressed by everything you do. What’s more important than what you do for our children?” said Rep. David Mack (District 109) to the school bus drivers in the room. “We will be fully on board with whatever needs to be done to fix this situation.”
Dot Scott, President of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP, was among the long list of community, political and faith supporters who participated in the discussion.
“I’m here to reinforce the understanding that the NAACP is here to support the workers, their union and make sure kids are transported in a healthy environment,” Scott said.
Scott has worked with a contingent of community leaders over the past several years to raise concerns over school bus transportation in Charleston.
In April 2014, the Charleston County School Board voted unanimously (9-0) to conduct an investigation into safety practices by Durham School Services.
The Teamsters Drive Up Standards campaign is a global campaign to improve safety, service and work standards in the private school bus and transit industry. Since the campaign began in 2006, more than 38,000 North American school bus and transit workers have become Teamsters.
For more information on Drive Up Standards, go to www.driveupstandards.org.
Founded in 1903, the Teamsters Union represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.