CHICAGO, Sept. 29, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa addressed an historic gathering of hundreds of Teamster local unions and school bus members today in Chicago at the 2012 Teamsters School Bus Workers Congress.
"There is a war on workers being waged by anti-worker politicians and employers, but Teamsters are fighting back. We've built a movement of school bus workers across North America who are gaining the respect, dignity and working conditions that they deserve," Hoffa said.
Hoffa noted the unprecedented success of the Teamsters' Drive Up Standards campaign, which has brought 35,000 drivers, monitors, aides and mechanics into the union since 2006.
The 2012 Teamsters School Bus Workers Congress is a two-day event that brings together Teamster local union representatives and school bus workers to participate in a national dialogue, learn more about the industry and the Teamsters' role in driving up standards, all in preparation for a year of increased activity.
Rick Middleton, International Vice President and Chair of the Teamsters national school bus campaign, pointed to the union's success in protecting workers' rights at First Student as having laid the groundwork for other private, multinational school bus companies.
"It wasn't easy. We spent many years raising our concerns about the discrepancies between the way workers were treated in the U.K. and in North America. Global corporations appear to have different standards in their home countries and become bad actors when they enter the North American market," Middleton said. "Our allies in the U.K. and throughout Europe helped us illuminate the need for a real policy to protect workers' rights, and today more than 21,000 men and women are protected by a national agreement with First Student."
John T. Coli, International Vice President and President of Teamsters Joint Council 25, welcomed the Congress attendees to Chicago, and also gave a warm welcome to the newest Teamster members—the 270 Alpha School Bus drivers and attendants in Crestwood, Ill., who joined Teamsters Local 777 in an election held Friday night. Alpha School Bus is one of 14 Cook-Illinois Corporation subsidiaries.
"Illinois workers want and need strong union representation. We've organized 4,000 workers over the past six years at First Student, Cook-Illinois, Illinois Central, Latino Express and a number of other private school bus companies," Coli said. "By working together, at all levels of our union, and with the hardworking men and women who transport our children, we are transforming this industry for the better."
School bus workers from a number of companies spoke about current conditions in the school bus industry, detailing contract wins, organizing successes and legislative initiatives that impact school bus workers nationwide.
Terry Riley, a driver with Durham School Services in Albuquerque, N.M., is currently working with his 200 coworkers to join the Teamsters.
"We are treated at our companies like we are the problem, not like we are part of the solution. I am here to thank the Teamsters for their Drive Up Standards school bus campaign because it gives us hope. We are the 99% and we have to stand up and speak up," Riley said.
The national gathering of Teamsters looked at workers' rights abuses and safety issues at National Express Group, parent company to Durham in the U.S. and Stock Transportation in Canada.
The event hosted global partner delegates from Teamsters sister union "Unite the Union" in the U.K. and the International Transport Workers' Federation, in preparation for Teamster efforts at National Express in the coming year.
Other speakers and supporters in attendance include Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora); Bobby Morton, National Officer for Transport, Unite the Union (U.K.); Mac Urata, Inland Transport Secretary, International Transport Workers' Federation; Rev. C.J. Hawking, Executive Director, ARISE Chicago; and Kim Bobo, Executive Director, Interfaith Worker Justice.
"We have so much to be proud of. We've built a movement of school bus workers across North America, and working together, we are an unstoppable force for change. We have an exciting year ahead," Hoffa said.
For more information on the Drive Up Standards campaign, go to www.driveupstandards.org.
Founded in 1903, the Teamsters Union represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @TeamsterPower and "like" us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.
SOURCE International Brotherhood of Teamsters