Roanoke City Schools bus drivers, aides vote not to form union

Local News

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR News) – Durham bus drivers and aides in Roanoke voted not to form union Tuesday night.

The vote come up short despite aggravation and frustration shared by many who are currently working for Durham, which is the contracted bus service for the Roanoke Public School.

They were looking to join the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Advocates for the union were hoping it would bring big changes.

Lori Dempsey says she is coming up on her fifth anniversary of being a bus driver. She worked for the company before Durham, Mountain Valley Transportation.

Dempsey used the word nightmare to describe what it’s been like since Durham took over. She says she was hoping joining would bring better benefits, contracts and more negotiating power.

“We’ll just keep trudging through the mud until the problems get fixed,” Dempsey said.

She says it’s been hard because of all the changes they’ve made, the lack of a full staff and all the double routes she’s had to run with them being short-handed.

“It’s extremely exhausting. The kids, by the time I pick up my kids, the ones who actually ride my bus, they’re crazy, they’re anxious, they’re rambunctious,” said Dempsey.

She says she wanted to unionize to feel like she had a voice.

“We didn’t actually vote Durham in. It wasn’t our choice. And ever since the beginning, they’ve pretty much lied to us. They’ve said there’s not anything that’s going to change, we’re going to work with you, we’re going to make things easier. And they’ve done nothing but make everything hard, harder,” said Dempsey.

“I want to be able to be looked at as a dignified individual because I do drive this bus every day and I’m on this buys all day long. I want to be looked at like I’m somebody and not just a bus driver.”

But not enough people felt the same. 43 people voted for forming a union and 162 votes against.

The International representative for the ATU Michael Harms, says it was because of the anti-union campaign the company put on.

“We have a multi-billion dollar corporation here that is able to coerce their workers into a captive audience meeting, which allows them to say what ever they want about the union truth or no truth,” said Harms.

Harms says he doesn’t believe anything will get better for workers now that they voted against the union.

“I just personally think that any of the promises that the boss made them are not going to be kept. They’re still going to be getting poverty wages, they’re still not going to be getting over 30 hours a week, which was a big factor in this drive, to begin with,” Harms said.

Harms says they can’t have another vote for a full year after Tuesday night’s vote. He says in the mean time they’ll speak with employees to see if there were any unfair labor practices that they can file to try to get a re-run election or to get the union instated.

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