This year Bus Yard contracts are up for negotiation and our CSEA bus yard members are active in the fight to secure a strong contract. This year’s goals, however, far outweigh year’s past as they are fighting to build power among various chapters by working together to set industry standards through collective bargaining. Our three Bus Yards under First Student–New Haven (with nearly 400 drivers & monitors), West Hartford (with nearly 130 drivers), and New London (with 70 drivers & monitors)–collectively representing almost 600 bus workers, are fighting to be represented under one contract, rather than three.
Our bus yards deeply understand the impact of collective bargaining and solidarity and hope to secure a livable retirement benefit, better wages, uniform benefits and employee rights under a single contract. The bargaining team(made up of members from the 3 yards) opened negotiations on August 28th with health & safety school reopening proposals, as well as job/hours protections demands due to COVID-19.
Those proposals were met with a heavy “No” from the Employer’s attorney. Furthermore, in a later session, when the bargaining team laid out the demands for One Contract and its economic proposals, the Employer continued to respond with “no”, trying to break up the 3 groups to bargain individually.
Anne Nelson, from the New Haven Bus Yard, was frustrated by the employer’s response, “I take pride in transporting the students of New Haven. The Board of Ed is doing everything it can for the students and teachers and staff. Why is it so difficult for First Student to understand we are an important part of the equation? Does my family have less value? Don’t I need to be able to keep them safe as well? Keep a roof over their heads and food on the table?”.
Seeing that negotiations weren’t moving forward, members stuck together and continued to demand one contract — a fair contract. On October 15th, the last day of the contract extension, school bus workers from all three yards participated in a solidarity action by reporting to work wearing purple, and amplifying their message on Social Media posting selfies and pictures with their co-workers using #OneUnionOneContract and #PurplePower.
All throughout the day the bosses were noticing the member’s solidarity action in the yards and grew increasingly nervous leading up to that night’s Zoom negotiations.
When the boss logged onto the meeting to see 150 zoom screens filled with members wearing purple and decorating their background, that’s when Nelson knew their action had an impact. “The boss literally said “Oh, crap” when he logged on, he must not have known his microphone was still on! In a time of virtual negotiations, I am happy to see that my union and fellow members are still standing together to make an impact.”
While the Bus Yards continue the fight to achieve their demands, the rest of CSEA cheers them on and hopes to hear soon that they have secured the entirety of their demands.
Bus Yard members: Continue to wear purple on negotiation days!
The New London Bus Yard Members stand in solidarity in their purple shirts!