School Bus Drivers Call On National Express to Honor Workers’ Rights
Sebrina Isom and Diane Bence had traveled a long way, from their school bus yards in the United States to the front door of National Express Group PLC headquarters in Birmingham, England, to deliver an important message.
“We are here speaking out and standing at the forefront for all our coworkers around North America to ensure all school bus drivers and monitors are being treated fairly and receive good, safe working conditions,” said Isom, a 25-year school bus driver, formerly with Durham School Services, and currently a representative with Local 509 in West Columbia, S.C.
National Express, a large and profitable transportation company, is headquartered in England but has operations around the world. National Express is the parent company to Durham School Services, the second-largest school bus company in the United States, and Stock Transportation in Canada.
While the company reports 94 percent of its U.K. work force has a collective bargaining agreement, that’s the case with only 32 percent of the company’s North American workers.
Isom, Bence and Teamster representatives met in England with key National Express stakeholders—investors, union leaders and political leaders, including Members of Parliament—to call on National Express to honor their North American workers’ rights to form a union, to be treated with dignity and respect, and have safe working conditions.
“I do believe that the shareholders and our allies heard what we said and will be speaking up with us to change National Express policies and anti-union stances in North America,” Isom said.
Isom, Bence and a delegation of Teamsters from the U.S. joined British bus drivers and members of Unite the Union outside National Express headquarters. There, they delivered a letter from Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa to National Express Group Chief Executive Dean Finch, urging the company to strengthen its human rights policies and practices.
Bence and her co-workers recently voted overwhelmingly to join Local 991 in Mobile, Ala., after the company ran an aggressive anti-union campaign. Durham filed objections to their election, and the National Labor Relations Board hearing officer recently recommended that all of the objections be dismissed.
“It’s important that people realize that the problems we face in my yard in Navarre, Fla., are not just isolated incidents. There is a pattern to the way Durham is treating people and that is what is so disheartening,” Bence said. “It’s upsetting to me because I care about the kids on my bus.”
Bence detailed concerns over deteriorating buses with mold problems, as well as abusive treatment from Durham managers.
“We will fight together to let our communities, our politicians and our government know that we will not continue to endure such outrageous, disrespectful behavior from this company,” Isom said. “Everyone needs to be treated with dignity and respect. Why shouldn’t our voices in North America be heard?”
Go to www.driveupstandards.org to read more about Sebrina and Diane’s work in England, Teamster activity at National Express and the Teamsters school bus campaign, which has organized and raised standards for more than 35,000 school bus workers across North America since 2006.