(North Charleston, S.C.) – Today, school bus drivers from Charleston, Beaufort and Summerville’s Dorchester District 2, shared their serious concerns over school bus safety, service and working conditions at Durham School Services with a panel of international union representatives, prominent trade unionists from the U.S. and political leaders.
The drivers testified at the forum about workplace safety and service issues that impact the safe transportation of area schoolchildren. Durham contracts with three South Carolina school districts and is the second-largest school bus company in the United States. Durham is a subsidiary of National Express Group PLC, a United Kingdom-based multinational transportation company.
“This forum is crucial to ensuring that issues with safety, service and worker rights standards are addressed at National Express and its U.S. subsidiary Durham,” said L.D. Fletcher, President of Teamsters Local 509 in Charleston, S.C. “Its only through hearing the accounts of drivers that we can understand how to address anti-worker behavior on the job.”
Sebrina Isom, a former Durham driver and member of Teamsters Local 509 in West Columbia, South Carolina, spoke to the panel about the importance of holding the company accountable for its actions in the U.S.
“These drivers are speaking out to raise awareness of what we deal with every day on the job,” Isom said. “We transport children, we work hard and it’s not too much to ask that National Express take more responsibility and treat us with fairness and respect.”
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued 57 formal complaints since 2001 against Durham. These complaints resulted in settlements. The complaints came as a result of charges by Durham workers, including disparate treatment, discipline and discharge of employees engaged in union organizing; surveillance of workers engaged in union activity; and threatening workers with reduction in benefits, working conditions and the loss of employment for supporting unionization.
Representatives from international labor unions that represent National Express workers across Europe traveled to the U.S. to attend today’s forum. International panel members included trade unionists from Unite the Union in the UK, the International Transport Workers Federation and German unions ver.di and EVG. The delegation will travel to Sana Rosa, Fla. to hear from additional Durham workers on Thursday, April 18.
“National Express must understand that the international community will hold it accountable for its actions here in the United States and in Europe,” said Mac Urata, ITF inland transport section secretary. “We thank the brave workers that have shared their experiences with us today.”
U.S. panel members included South Carolina State Representative Wendell Gilliard (D – 111th), former National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Fred Feinstein, South Carolina ALF-CIO president Ken Riley, and Senior Policy Analyst with America Rights at Work Michael Wasser who served as the delegation chair.
“This forum has helped bring to light a pattern of behavior that deeply concerns this panel,” Wasser said. “We cannot stand by and allow any company to violate the rights of their workers or endanger the lives of the very children they are entrusted to transport.”
National Express is the second-largest operator of school bus services in North America. The Teamsters represent 4,700 National Express workers. The company reports that 94 percent of the U.K. work force is covered by a collective bargaining agreement, as compared to only 32 percent of its North American work force.
Drive Up Standards is a global campaign to improve safety, service and work standards in the private school bus and transit industry. For information on the Teamsters Drive Up Standards campaign, go to http://www.driveupstandards.