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:
Courtesy of:  Santa Rosa's Press Gazette

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters was in town this week to meet with Santa Rosa County school bus drivers. At a meeting Thursday night, bus drivers voiced concerns over safety of students, citing many complaints over the conditions of school buses used in the county; treatment by management; lack of basic medical first aid training; being forced to work when ill; and being subjected to verbal abuse by management.
Among those concerns drivers reported in notarized affidavits they've experienced black mold in some buses; bald tires—including retreads on the front of the buses; broken seats; broken two-way radios; no air conditioning; and a panic button that didn't work. Some drivers said they do not have the training to handle specific special needs students placed on their buses. Fifteen school bus drivers in Santa Rosa County signed notarized affidavits stating their experiences and concerns dated March/2013.

Diane Bence is a driver in Navarre for Durham and Santa Rosa County who has a three-page affidavit filed with the Teamsters. She appeared at Thursday's meeting to offer testimony about her experiences as a school bus driver. She says she believes 85% of the buses in Santa Rosa County has black mold. She says in August 2012 one driver, Darla Olson was ill from the mold and was nearly hospitalized. She states the brakes on some school buses have squeaking brakes or no brake pressure.

Bence says in 2011, a dash light came on in her bus indicating an engine problem. When she made the mechanic for Durham aware of the issue, she says he told her to "go ahead and drive your route". She says she did and in less than ten minutes, the bus engine died in the middle of the road with children on board. She says she's driven the school bus with a fever of 103 because there are no replacement drivers and dispatchers and supervisor, Bob Downin, make drivers feel guilty and repeatedly call them to see when they are coming back to work. She also notes at times buses are loaded above safe capacity because of a driver shortage.

A document provided by the Teamsters called the National Express Group Summary April 2013. The National Express Group is the parent company of Durham School Services, according to its website. The reports suggests the complaints against Durham are not isolated to Santa Rosa County, but the complaints appear to be the same in other districts. Specifically, the report indicates violations of human rights and worker rights including employees being forced to drive buses while sick and not being paid for all the time they spend taking their buses in for maintenance; or while cleaning or servicing the bus.

"In Santa Rosa, Florida, some workers have had hours they work in excess of 40 hours per week rolled into next week to avoid paying overtime pay—a practice that violates the Fair Labor Standards Act," the report says.

A complaint filed by Dean W. Phinney - organizer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters filed a charge against Durham, specifically involving Bob Downin, on Dec. 27, 2012. the complaint states: "On or about 12/14/12 at a company sponsored event, area manager Bob Downin, provided a list to unit employees of financial and benefit improvements that were being offered by 
Durham School Services. He went on to state that these improvements were only being offered and given to 'non-union' facilities."

There are other complaints filed against the Santa Rosa Durham office alleging surveillance was done on Union organizers and unit employees by photographing/videoing them at the Milton office.

A Teamster report states workers in Santa Rosa County voted to join the Teamsters by a wide margin - a move that the Teamsters say has prompted objections from Durham.

Statement from Durham School Services regarding the Teamsters and the allegations:

"Durham School Services takes the safety of our passengers and employees very seriously. We are disappointed that the Teamsters sought to cast accusations on the safety of our drivers, our equipment and the services we provide through name-calling and use of anecdotal stories with disputed facts. 
It is unfair to the public in Santa Rosa that the union used this tactic to incite concern and fear throughout the community when in fact school buses are the safest way for students to get to school and Durham is a leader in safe transportation. School bus drivers are the most highly trained, tested and scrutinized drivers on the road. 

We look to our drivers, like the ones in Santa Rosa, not only for safe driving but also to complete thorough pre and post trip inspections and to report any concerns with bus safety, services or working conditions through the multiple reporting channels we have in place.

We will look into the details of the tales told at the meeting but more importantly, we will continue to focus on getting the students of Santa Rosa to and from school safely.”

Article Online:

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:
By Bob Barnard, @bobbybbarnardIt seems there are two issues: first, the lack of school bus service Monday morning. And second, the lack of communication from school administrators to parents. No warning. No word about what was going on.
Read more:
by Taylor Holland

...parents are so upset with the school system's attempt to prevent students from riding buses to school that 10 of them pulled their children out of Campbell Elementary School and moved them to another school to which they can ride a bus.

Read more:
While frantic and angry parents waited for word on their children, they tell us they weren't getting any answers from the Richmond County Board of Education. WJBF News Channel 6.