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School Van Drivers Join Local 671

School van drivers in Connecticut are excited to join Local 671 in Bloomfield, Conn. The 35 drivers organized because, while they don’t drive the traditional yellow school bus, they experience issues and concerns similar to those faced by other student transportation drivers around the country.

“I like my job, but everything has to be fair and equal,” said Madelyne Matos, a driver. “There have been a lot of changes since our facility moved over the summer. I’m happy we’re Teamsters.”

Matos and her co-workers are employed by the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC).

Luis Rosario, an organizer and field representative with Local 671, describes CREC as an entity of the state that receives state and federal funding, as well as private donations, to promote equal access to education. It arose out of a high-profile Connecticut Supreme Court decision over educational inequalities impacting children in disadvantaged areas.

CREC school van drivers transport children, including special needs children, to schools throughout the state, some days clocking 80 miles or more of drive time. The program is growing rapidly and bus routes are being routinely added.

“We are happy to welcome the CREC drivers to the Teamsters and eager to negotiate a strong contract that values their service to the children,” said Dave Lucas, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 671.

Troy Taylor has worked for CREC for 9 years and supported the vote for Teamster representation.

“We all have to live. We all have families to take care of. I felt it was important to fight for my co-workers,” Taylor said.

“There’s favoritism, no seniority, low wages and no defined wage schedule. Some drivers have health insurance and retirement, and some don’t,” Rosario said. “They had no voice so they came to us and their voice is being heard.”

CREC drivers were able to organize, in part, due to Rosario’s exposure to trainings by the Teamsters Training and Development Department. Rosario was a UPS driver and member of Local 671 who, in the fall of 2013, attended trainings in Connecticut led by the Teamsters Training and Development Department. He followed up with a full five-day organizing course at the International headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“Dave Lucas had the foresight to grow our union. He got a group of us trained as organizers and we can all now help each other, as Teamsters do,” Rosario said.

Teamsters Local 671 also represents more than 500 other First Student drivers in the area. They are currently in negotiations with the company. Local 671 is now looking forward to also negotiating directly with CREC for their newest members.