Local employees of First Student Inc., a busing company which contracts with the Dunkirk and Fredonia school districts, unionized.
On Tuesday, non-union employees of First Student - formerly Laidlaw - within the Dunkirk and Fredonia school districts voted in favor of unionizing under the Teamsters Local 264. The decision will impact 80 current employees, comprised of bus drivers and bus monitors, between the two districts.
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rules require a minimum of 30 percent of a particular group to express interest in order to mandate a vote. However, once organized, the measure must receive a minimum of 50 percent plus one of the votes in favor to pass.
The measure passed in Dunkirk and Fredonia with a 54-20 decision in a secret ballot vote, supervised by an agent from NLRB, with six employees absent from vote, M. Scott Chismar, field representative and organizer for the Teamsters Local Union No. 264, said.
"First Student terminals are organizing throughout the country right now," he explained. "They like the job; they like dealing with the kids, but they're looking for the respect."
Recently, similar campaigns were organized in Batavia and Elba, he added. The Teamsters Local Union No. 264 currently represents more than 4,500 members throughout Western New York.
The Dunkirk-Fredonia decision is expected to take effect within the next several weeks, following certification by NLRB. At present, newly christened union members will continue to work under the conditions of their current handbook. However, upon certification, union representatives and district officials will begin negotiating the terms of a new contract.
"We inherit all the terms and conditions - good, bad or indifferent - of employment that are in place right now," Chismar explained. "Then it's mandatory that the employer negotiates in good faith for anything that can be construed as a wage, hour or working condition."
After a contract is negotiated, he said, the majority of union members will need to approve it before it takes effect.
Although unionization is more advantageous for employees - promoting better wages and benefit packages - Chismar said it can also be beneficial to the school districts. According to Chismar, unionization produces a more stable and dedicated work force.
"People don't leave good jobs," he said. "So, with the stability, hopefully, we raise the standards here and it becomes more of a career instead of something for retirees."
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