Following is the full decision rendered by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on May 17, 2016. This is a great win for the Durham bus drivers in Santa Rosa County, FL who have stood strong in this +3 year fight...
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The following article was front-page news on the Pensacola News Journal on May 18,2016. This article was submitted by Thomas St. Myer.
Santa Rosa County school bus drivers scored another victory in their 3-plus-year effort to unionize Tuesday when the United States Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit denied a petition from Durham School Services, LP.
The British company challenged a Feb. 12, 2013 vote by the bus drivers to unionize with International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 991, claiming the union circulated misleading propaganda during the election campaign. Voters sided with the union by a 112-74 vote.
Lavon Lindsey, business agent for Teamsters Local 991, said he will send a request to the British company Wednesday morning for a bargaining date. Durham is left with two options--bargain or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The question is will they believe it's a waste of time?" Lindsey said of appealing to the Supreme Court. "If they do try to take it there, it's just another ploy that's against what the law gives the drivers, which is the right to a representative."
Durham school bus driver Diane Bence led the effort to unionize. She sent out a group text after the decision Tuesday that read, "light at the end of the tunnel and I can see it." Fellow school bus drivers expressed similar excitement in the group texts.
Bence cited how the company treats its employees, its slowness in repairing buses and low pay among her grievances, and why she sought to unionize.
"For us to have representation is big. We'll be treated with respect, we'll be paid for what we do in a timely manner," she said. "It means there's going to be some regulation rules. We need buses that'll be taken care of. It's a safety issue, and this complaint has been put on the backburner."
Bence said Durham drivers start off at $11.25 per hour and receive no vacation days or health benefits. Durham employs about 160 of the 205 school bus drivers in the county. The School District employs the remaining drivers. Bence said virtually all of the School District bus drivers' tenures date back 20-plus years. They start at $17 per hour and receive time off and health benefits.
She cited wage restrictions along with management yelling at drivers as reasons for significant turnover at Durham. She said that turnover leaves few substitutes on the payroll. That means management sometimes assigns drivers additional routes, causing overcrowding on buses, as well as late pickups and dropoffs.
Christina Tarbox resigned as a Durham school bus driver in March. She said management treated her rudely, prompting her resignation. She backed what Bence said about overcrowding on school buses.
"Sometimes when a bus driver doesn't come for afternoon shift, we'll have to cover each other," said Tarbox, who drove in the Gulf Breeze area. "You'll have a full busload where kids are literally in the aisle. Three middle schoolers in a seat is a bit much."
A post on "Concerned Citizens of Navarre" Facebook page earlier this school year showed a picture of an overcrowded bus with students sitting in the aisle.
Santa Rosa County School Board accepted a bid from Durham in 2008. The School District pays Durham in the $8 million ballpark for its services. Santa Rosa Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick said the cost fluctuates based on the number of bus routes each year. The superintendent spoke favorably of the company.
"Durham has been an excellent partner with us. They've done an excellent job and been very responsive corporately providing resources to us. Nationwide and worldwide they've been an excellent provider," Wyrosdick said. "I know this issue with the union has been ongoing for a long time, but we're very satisfied with them."
Lindsey said the issue will finally be resolved if Durham accepts the federal appeals court ruling and negotiates in good faith.
"We hope these employees can get help here," Lindsey said. "We want decent wages, downtime, things they don't have. When they were county employees they received those things. We believe everybody should have healthcare and be treated with dignity and respect."