Bus workers unionizeEmployees at First Student -- the company that provides bus services for Red Wing School District -- voted Tuesday to unionize.
By: Jen Cullen, The Republican Eagle
Employees at First Student -- the company that provides bus services for Red Wing School District -- voted Tuesday to unionize.
The bus drivers, monitors and Coach drivers will become part of Teamsters Local 160 based in Rochester. Of First Student's 71 Red Wing employees, 54 cast ballots. The final vote was 45-9.
"A lot of us felt, and I think it was shown in the vote, it was time for us to stand up," said Red Wing resident Tim Schmitz, a bus driver for 11 years. "We've just felt that instead of it being more like ... a parent-child relationship where they tell us what to do, this puts us more on an even keel where it's more of an adult to adult thing."
The employees were seeking better wages, benefits, paid holidays and sick leave, said Shelley Goodman, regional lead for Minnesota Teamsters.
"I don't think that's too much to ask for. Now these are things now they can at least sit down and negotiate for," she said. "What they want is to be able to have a voice in the workplace. At this point the company doesn't give them that."
School and First Student officials said the vote will not affect district bus services.
Supt. Stan Slessor said Tuesday he would sit down with First Student representatives in coming months to discuss the district's contract with the agency.
First Student spokeswoman Maureen Richmond said First Student has both unionized and non-unionized employees nationwide.
"There will be no change to services we offer," said Maureen Richmond, First Student spokeswoman. "We support the employees whether they are unionized or not. We support them either way."
The local vote was part of a national Teamsters campaign to unionize First Student employees.
Goodman said officials have helped more than 22,000 First Student workers unionize nationwide over the past three years, including more than 1,000 employees in the Twin Cities area.
Officials will meet over the next few months to negotiate a contract.
"We are ecstatic," Schmitz said. "In First Student's words we are carrying the most precious cargo. We can't make a living wage the way things are right now."