Durham School Bus Workers Speak Out About Safety, Wage Theft Concerns
ROSEDALE, Md., May 23, 2013 — /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- 
School bus drivers and attendants with Durham School Services who transport students attending Baltimore City Public Schools
joined with Teamsters, political and other community leaders at a rally today to demand respect and safe working conditions.
Durham workers spoke out about workplace safety and service issues that may impact the safe transportation of area schoolchildren.

"I have reported mold problems on our bus for years and the problem is not fixed. I'm scared for the kids on the bus," said Stephanie Urosa, a six-year attendant on a bus for children with special needs. "Some of the children we transport have weakened immune systems and allergies and they don't need to be exposed to this. Mold is just one of a number of safety concerns we have."

In addition to mold, drivers and attendants spoke about fuel leaks, electrical problems, problems with the air brakes and a recent fire on a school bus. 

"Safety is paramount. Durham has ignored the workers' concerns about the unsafe conditions of the buses. Making matters worse, workers aren't getting a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. These workers deserve a strong union so their voices can be heard and our kids can be kept safe," said Sean Cedenio, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 570 in Baltimore.

"I support the bus drivers and attendants' fundamental right to collectively bargain. In light of the troubling reports about unsafe school buses and serious wage and hour issues, the workers here have a very important voice that should be heard," said J. Ronald DeJuliis, Maryland Commissioner of Labor and Industry.
More than 85 Durham drivers and attendants have signed on to a class-action lawsuit claiming wage theft by the contractor. In the lawsuit filed March 12 with the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, the plaintiffs bring claims to recover wages owed by the company.

"This company has been taking the money we earn. I'm not paid for all of the hours I work and my paycheck hasn't been correct for the last year. We got so tired of reporting these pay issues without the company resolving the problem that the drivers and attendants had no choice but to file a class-action lawsuit to get the pay that we have worked hard for and earned," said Mildred Israel, a Durham driver in Rosedale.

In 2012 Durham workers filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over surveillance by the company as the workers began to organize to form a union with Local 570. The NLRB found in favor of the workers and issued Durham with a 60-day probation order in March 2013.

While under probation, Durham continued to violate labor laws and the workers were forced to file another unfair labor practice charge on May 1 against the company over illegal surveillance.

About 150 drivers and attendants work for Durham in Rosedale. Durham is the second-largest school bus company in the United States and a subsidiary of National Express Group PLC, a United Kingdom-based multinational transportation company.

Drive Up Standards is a national campaign to improve safety, service and work standards in the private school bus and transit industry. Since the campaign began in 2006, more than 35,700 drivers, monitors, aides, attendants and mechanics have become Teamsters

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Courtesy of:  Roberto Cruz  @ Poughkeepsie Journal

Bus service for the Rhinebeck Central School District will be provided in a limited capacity this afternoon, a posting on the
Rhinebeck Central School District website said. 

High school and middle school bus routes 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, and 11 will be available, the posting said. At the elementary school, bus routes 22, 23, 24, 25, and 26 will be available. 

School bus drivers who serve the Rhinebeck and Spackenkill school districts and the Dutchess Board of Cooperative Educational Services are once again on strike, protesting what they say are unsafe working conditions and abysmal
employee turnover.

Bus transportation to Rhinebeck schools this morning was not available in its usual capacity, a statement on the Rhinebeck Central School District website said. School officials advised parents to be prepared to provide transportation for their students this morning, leaving this afternoon’s bus service in question.

Rhinebeck High School Principal Ed Davenport said from his vantage point, no bus transportation was provided to the high school this morning. He said school officials remain hopeful to have transportation available this afternoon, but  they are planning to deal with increased traffic if none is available. 

Teamsters Local 445 business agent Lori Polesel says there will continue “to be unrest” from her union until Durham School Services, the contractor that provides bus transportation to the districts and Dutchess BOCES, addresses their concerns.

“They continue to put profit over safety,” Polesel said.

Article Online: http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/article/20130509/NEWS01/130509005/SCHOOL-BUS-EMPLOYEES-STRIKE-AGAIN-RHINEBECK-PARENTS-RESPONSIBLE-FOR-STUDENT-TRANSPORTATION
Courtesy of Gus Rosendale @ NBCNewYork.com

Parents in Newark, N.J., are outraged after finding out a 3-year old boy was left alone on a bus for hours.

A 3-year-old New Jersey boy who was reported missing when he failed to show up to school Tuesday morning was found sleeping on the bus that was supposed to drop him off, officials said.

The boy's mother said she received a call from the McKinley School in North Ward, N.J., saying her child had not arrived at school, officials said. She told officials her son had been placed on the bus that morning.

That's when the school contacted the bus company, and workers checked the bus. The boy was found sleeping on a seat, according to school officials.

Officials said the bus driver and an aide were fired by the private bus company, Belair, which operates in Orange, N.J.. The company declined to comment.

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Courtesy of:  Erin Kourkounis @ PNJ.com

A group of Santa Rosa school bus drivers is expected to bring concerns about bus safety and working conditions at Durham School Services to the Santa Rosa School Board Thursday.

During the board’s meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, members will decide whether to grant Durham a five-year contract to operate district transportation. 

In a forum organized by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union last week in Bagdad, Durham drivers in Milton, Pace and Navarre aired their concerns about workplace safety. 

Their concerns ranged from fluid leaks to mold on buses and drivers going to work sick because they cannot afford to take time off. Some drivers say they are yelled at or ignored by supervisors when they bring up concerns. 

About 210 Santa Rosa school bus drivers and monitors work for Durham, the second-largest school bus company in the country and a subsidiary of National Express Group PLC, a multinational transportation company based in the United Kingdom.

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Courtesy of:  By Lewis Griswold - The Fresno Bee

A South Valley school bus driver is in jail on child molestation charges, but his employer failed to notify school officials in Kings County about the arrest.  The case began April 2 when Visalia police arrested school bus driver Daniel Lucero, 48, on suspicion of molesting a 13-year-old female family friend several times over several years.

He is in the Tulare County jail on $1 million bail.  Lucero drove special-education student buses in Kings County. School
officials didn't know about the arrest for more than two weeks when an angry parent told them about it.

Visalia police Sgt. Ozzie Dominguez said investigators notified Lucero's employer at the time of his arrest.      
But Student Transportation of America, the employer, failed to notify education officials, said Rick Rayburn, superintendent of Lemoore Union Elementary School District and chairman of the joint powers authority overseeing the bus contract with the company.

The company was hired to bus special education students to Shelly Baird School in Hanford and other sites operated by the Kings County Office of Education.  Thursday, the company issued a statement that the driver had to pass a criminal background check and a personal background check by the bus company before he was hired recently. He has been placed on suspension, the statement said.

"While the alleged criminal activity did not take place during work hours and no STA passengers were involved, we are appalled by the actions of this individual," the statement said.

Rayburn said executives from Student Transportation contacted him Tuesday and apologized for not relaying the arrest information.  Future contracts will likely include a clause requiring timely disclosure of such information, he said.  At the suggestion of a parent, the joint powers authority board will discuss whether extra security is needed, he said.

The parent who tipped off the Kings County Office of Education was upset that parents of students attending Shelly Baird School, where Lucero bused students, were not told about the arrest, Assistant Superintendent Barbara Zaino said.

The parent, who learned about the arrest from a news report, met April 19 with the Kings County superintendent of schools, she said.  It's "standard practice" to send home a letter under these circumstances, Zaino said.  Rayburn on Wednesday wrote a letter for Kings County Office of Education officials to send home to Shelly Baird parents.

The notice, which was sent to homes Thursday, said that Shelly Baird students were not involved, the driver has been suspended, his bus driver's license suspended, the alleged victim is not a student in Kings County and Visalia police said, "There is no evidence to indicate that other children were involved."

Lucero has been charged in Tulare County with eight counts of sex-related crimes, including two counts of sexual intercourse or sodomy with a child age 10 or younger, which carry a sentence of 25 years to life in prison; one count of oral copulation with a child 10 or younger; five counts of a lewd act on a child; and special allegations of substantial sexual conduct.

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/04/25/3274593/kings-county-school-bus-driver.html#storylink=cpy
Courtesy of:  Roger Weeder of First Coast News

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Robert and Ruth Monigold are frustrated after seeing cell phone video of their 13 year-old daughter attacked in a First Student bus on her way home from school.

"There is no way the bus driver could not have heard anything or seen anything," said the dad from his Northside home commenting on the April 3 incident.

Police say the teen was the victim of an unprovoked attack and was hit at least 10 times. She missed a week of school according to her parents after suffering injuries to her eye socket.

Ruth Monigold said what is of more concern is the response they got from their daughter's school, Eugene Butler Middle School.

"The school told me they could not guarantee the security of my daughter," said the mother, who enrolled her daughter in another middle school.

The family did press charges against the teen accused of tossing the punches. She faces battery charges.

"Do they have to kill a kid on a bus before they actually do something about it?" said the teen's mother who said her daughter is paranoid about going out.  A spokesperson for Duval County Public Schools was not aware of the incident. 
Update: Timothy Stokes, spokesperson for First Student Inc., gave First Coast News the following statement:

"First Student was made aware of the April 3 incident involving students during their afternoon departure by representatives from the school district. Immediately, an investigation was conducted, where it was determined the driver was unaware of the incident that occurred while at a bus stop. 

"The safety and security of the students we transport to and from school is our top priority and something we take very seriously. Our drivers are highly trained to provide students with a safe form of transportation daily. If an instance of aggressive behavior occurs on one of our buses, our drivers are trained to secure the bus in a safe location and radio dispatch for assistance. Dispatch then notifies the proper authorities, whether that is local law enforcement or school officials, to respond. Following this incident, the driver has gone through additional training to ensure that an incident like this does not go unnoticed again."

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Courtesy of:  Diette Courrege Casey @ The Post and Courier

Sabrina Isom worries about the safety of Lowcountry school buses.

She shares the same concerns as union school bus drivers in Beaufort County, Charleston County and Dorchester 2, and they're speaking out to ensure those issues are addressed.

“They're breaking down, and they're unreliable, and we want to make sure they are not overcrowded,” said Isom, a

former 25-year bus driver who represents drivers and monitors in Teamsters Local 509. “We want to make sure they are safe, and to make sure the equipment is safe for children.”

That's one of the topics that will be discussed tonight during a meeting of local union school bus drivers and  international
union representatives. They are coming together to try to understand about how they can better work with their drivers' employer, National Express, which is the parent company of Durham School Services. State and national labor
leaders will host a forum to talk about how Durham handles its union workers in terms of safety and respect.

“It's raising issues so that everyone is aware of what we're dealing with,” said Galen Munroe, a spokesman for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters based in Washington, D.C. “This is an information-gathering, fact-finding (international)
delegation coming over to find out how National Express conducts business in North America.”

The gathering in North Charleston will be one of two hosted nationally, and officials said the goal is exchanging information to help both American and international labor leaders.

They chose Charleston County as a meeting site because of its number of union drivers, Munroe said. In Charleston County,
nearly 300 of its 413 drivers are part of the union. In Dorchester 2, about 125 of 165 drivers are part of the union.

Durham has contracts with Beaufort County, Charleston County and Dorchester 2 school districts to employ its drivers and manage its bus routes. Most drivers in each of those districts have joined the Teamsters Local 509, and that group
threatened to strike earlier this year during contentious contract negotiations.

Union drivers approved new five-year contracts with Durham about six weeks ago, and this meeting is not a result of dissatisfaction with those new deals.

“We're not here to talk about those contracts,” Munroe said. “We're talking about what's going on in the (bus) yards
when it comes to safety and human rights. ... Their concern is maintaining safety.”

South Carolina has the nation's only state-run bus fleet; it also is the oldest in the country. The state is responsible for bus
maintenance except in Mount Pleasant
, where it has pilot-tested a privatized bus-maintenance shop. Durham officials have said they don't allow unsafe buses to be used.

In Charleston County, Durham's contract to operate expires in June 2014. School Board Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats said the
board hasn't talked about the company's future role in the district since the strike threat ended, but she expects that it will.

Carina Noble, a spokeswoman for Durham, said the company didn't have any information other than what the union provided in a  press advisory. She said she couldn't comment further.

The panel will include Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, who also is a former president of the steelworkers union; Kenneth Riley, president of the South Carolina AFL-CIO; Fred Feinstein, former counsel for the National Labor Relations Board; and Michael Wasser, a senior policy analyst with American Rights at Work.

Article Online:  http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20130416/PC16/130419450/1005/safety-civil-rights-concerns-among-topics-for-discussion-for-union-school-bus-drivers-labor-leaders
Courtesy of:  TheIslandPacket.com

School bus drivers from Beaufort, Charleston and Dorchester 2 school districts will voice their concerns on bus safety, service and working conditions at Durham School Services in a press conference today. The conference will be at 5:45 p.m. at the Embassy Suites on International Boulevard in North Charleston.

After the press conference, members of the union -- Teamsters Local 509 -- will testify at a forum about their concerns, which they believe may affect the safe transportation of students. Trade unionists, civil rights, political and faith leaders from Europe and the U.S. will participate in the forum, according to a news release.

State Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, former National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Fred Feinstein, and S.C. AFL-CIO President Ken Riley, will be on the panel to hear the drivers' concerns. Representatives of National Express Group, the United Kingdom-based parent company of Durham, will also be in attendance, Galen Munroe, spokesman for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said.

The press conference and forum come after months of contract negotiations between the Teamsters and Durham. Teamsters in all three of the school districts --- the only districts in the state that contract with Durham for bus services ---  voted to
, but ultimately reached an agreement with Durham in late February.

In early February, as negotiations were ongoing, Beaufort drivers voiced concerns about safety and bus inspections at a Beaufort County Board of Education meeting. Durham denied those claims, but declined to release maintenance and
inspection records.

About half of Beaufort County's 200 bus drivers and monitors are Teamsters.

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Courtesy of:  Renee Tessman

FARMINGTON, Minn. - Bus drivers and aides on buses carry a responsibility.  Parents rely on them to keep their kids safe from home to school.

For the family of a three-year-old, who Friday, was forgotten on a school bus for four hours, the message is a serious one.  Elliott Johnson played a video game on a tablet Saturday, while sitting on his father's lap.

He spoke to his parents a little, but in general, Elliott doesn't say a lot. He has childhood apraxia, a speech disorder. His mother, Elizabeth Johnson said, "He doesn't speak well and he's very shy."

He's getting preschool help with his speech through Farmington Area Schools at the district's Instructional Service Center.

That's where he was headed Friday morning, around 8 a.m., when his mom Elizabeth Johnson put him on a school bus, with a bus driver and a bus aide on board.  She said, "He was in the front seat right behind the bus driver strapped

But Elliott never got to school.

Elizabeth said, "I was speechless I just couldn't believe it."  When Elliott didn't come home at noon, Elizabeth called the school.  They told her he was never there.  She called the bus service, Marschall Line, Inc. and a dispatcher found Elliott alone, still strapped in on that bus, at the bus terminal.

Elizabeth said, "For four hours I sat here thinking my son was at school. He's having fun, playing, learning.  And here he is sitting on a bus alone in the dark."

Elliott's dad, Jesse Johnson, said, "It's so heartbreaking.  Someone looses your kid and you have no clue where they are."

Jim Skelly is communications coordinator for Farmington Area Schools.  He said, "We're just very sorry that it did happen."  He continued, "There's procedures and policies in place to make sure that they don't happen, this kind of thing doesn't happen, and they just weren't followed."

Marschall Line, Inc., the bus company, issued a statement calling it a serious human error and said, "We offer our sincere apologies to the student and family involved." The statement also said, "Due to the serious breach of expectations, protocol and procedures related to student safety, both the bus driver and bus aide involved in the incident have been terminated."

The Johnsons are glad Elliott is safe but they want to send a message to all bus drivers and bus aides.  Elizabeth said, "Open their eyes.  Look through the seats.  Look under seats. Make sure their kids are not in the buses."

The Johnsons said they love Farmington schools and have never had any other problems with busing, so their older kids will continue to ride, but not Elliott. He told them he doesn't want to ride the bus anymore.

Elizabeth said the district offered to pay her mileage for transporting Elliott herself but she said she's not interested in the money.  They also offered to let Elliott talk to a school psychologist if she felt there was a need after this incident.

The bus company said it has an ongoing safety training program and will review procedures to avoid any other incidents.

Article Online:  http://www.kare11.com/news/article/1021433/391/3-year-old-left-alone-on-school-bus-for-4-hours
Courtesy of:  Kristin Gosling @ KSDK.com

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) -- A school bus fire caused extensive damage to a First Student bus.

The school bus driver and monitor escaped the fire.

A heater on the back of the First Student bus malfunctioned and caught fire on West Florissant, near Interstate 70 Wednesday morning.

The fire caused extensive damage and melted the words 'First Student' on the side of the bus.  No one was injured in the fire

Article and Video Online:  http://www.ksdk.com/news/article/371876/3/School-bus-driver-escapes-fire