(CHICAGO, Ill.) – Durham School Services school bus drivers working with the support of ARISE Chicago, Teamsters Local 777, Teamsters Local 50 and the Steering in the Right Direction Coalition have filed 17 individual complaints for lost wages against the National Express subsidiary Durham School Services with the Illinois Department of Labor. National Express is a U.K.-based transportation company, with their North American operations headquartered in Lisle, Ill.
The 17 complaints are in addition to another complaint filed against the company in the state of Illinois last month, bringing the total lost wages alleged by the drivers to $44,930.68. Durham has paid out over $12 million to workers since 2011, including a settlement after an audit by the New York State Attorney General’s office, two statewide class action lawsuits brought by workers in California and one class action suit in Baltimore, Md. The most recent class action suit against the company was settled on April 2, 2018 with California workers for $3.9 million.
Durham bus drivers in Illinois report several forms of wage theft, including not being paid for all hours worked, being required to work off the clock, not having errors on their paychecks corrected and being forced to buy supplies that they needed without being reimbursed. They question why public dollars are being paid to a private company that they say steals wages.
Wage theft is particularly exploitative among school bus contractors because their workforce is typically composed of low-wage workers who already struggle to make ends meet. Sharon Jones is a former Durham bus driver and a charging party in one of the wage theft complaints filed today.
“As a Durham bus driver, I could not earn a livable wage, so I had to work a second job,” Jones said. “I had to work evenings and weekends just so I could make sure my bills were paid. I had to sleep in my car because it cost too much time and money to head home between a.m. and p.m. routes. I even bought an electric blanket that I could plug into the cigarette lighter so I could stay warm in the bad weather.”
Jones said she believes that the wage theft complaints being filed against Durham School Services are not isolated incidents, but rather part of a pattern of bad behavior that the company needs to address.
“I could talk all day about the problems Durham school bus workers face, but I’m here today with solutions,” Jones said. “I want to ask Durham to sit down and talk with their workers to create safe, respectful jobs. I want Durham to pay its drivers for all of the hours and minutes that they work, and I want Durham to treat their workers with dignity.”
Arise Chicago is a workers’ rights organization that trains and organizes low-wage workers to recover stolen wages and improve working conditions. Since 2002, Arise Chicago members have recovered over $8 million in owed wages and compensation.
Steering in the Right Direction is a network of Durham School Services employees fighting for change that works closely with Arise Chicago, the Teamsters Union and other community organizations. SITRD focuses on wage theft, safety and worker respect issues. Find us on Facebook @steeringintherightdirection.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters 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.