50 Niagara Falls Coach Lines’ Bus Monitors ‘Go Union’ With Teamsters Local 264
After Election Results Read, Cheering Workers Send ‘Wave Of Emotion’ Over Local 264 Business Agent Tony Vaccaro, Who Tells WNYLaborToday.com That He Was “Choked Up” Because “They Knew Their Lives Had Changed For The Better”
(NIAGARA FALLS, NEW YORK) – After the Union Election results were read to Bus Monitors employed by Niagara Falls Coach Lines on Wednesday (April 5th) evening, a chorus of cheers was let out by those former Non-Union Workers who will now be represented by Teamsters Local 264. The cheers sent a “wave of emotion” through Local 264 Business Manager Tony Vaccaro, who tells WNYLaborToday.com that he was “choked up” because “their lives have changed for the better.”
By a more than overwhelming vote of 41-to-2, 50 Bus Monitors employed by the Niagara Falls-based School Bus Company are now Union represented after a two-month-long Organizing Campaign conducted by the Buffalo-headquartered Teamsters’ Local, which had already represented 74 Bus Drivers employed by Niagara Falls Coach Lines.
“We represent the Drivers at the company and there was ‘always interest’ (in becoming Union represented), but some (Workers) were ‘scared,’” Vaccaro told Your On-Line Labor Newspaper.
“We were meeting three times a month at the library in Niagara Falls and our meetings ‘continued to grow in size,” Teamsters Local 264 Organizer/Business Agent Darrin Ziemba told WNYLaborToday.com.
The Bus Monitors wanted a Union in their workplace after some of the Workers made the Teamsters aware that they had still been making Minimum Wage after 15 years of service, Vaccaro and Ziemba said. “There were ‘no more deserving people’ (who needed a Union in their workplace),” they said.
However, the company “got wind” of the Union Organizing Drive, Ziemba said, and hired a Union-busting law firm - Bond Schoeneck and King - to run a campaign to stop the effort, complete with Anti-Union fliers and an “Anti-Union/captive audience meeting” held before the vote. Company representatives told their Workers “with their ‘best’ rationale – that the Minimum Wage was ‘going up’ seventy-cents and that the Teamsters ‘couldn’t do’ much better than that” in contract negotiations, Vaccaro said.
However, the Union Organizing Drive “remained strong and pro-active,” Ziemba said, including making “house calls to the individual Workers.”
“(The Workers) talked about how they were having a ‘hard time making ends meet while management was ‘making more and always driving around with new cars.’ They saw (how) management ‘made a lot of money off their backs.’ And there were days, they said, when the schools were closed (in Niagara Falls) and were told: ‘Thank you and stay home’ (without receiving any pay). They were ‘glad to see us and it helped build credibility’ with the Union,” Ziemba said.
“I am ‘really anxious’” to begin first contract negotiations with Niagara Falls Coach Lines, Vaccaro told WNYLaborToday.com, “because I’m going to tell them that the Minimum Wage is the ‘basement’ and ‘not the ceiling” when it comes to Worker pay.
Most of the Bus Monitors are women and some rely on their family and friends for transportation to get them to work, Vaccaro said. “But a number of them stayed after their shift and others came back to hear the results of the vote. Around (5:20 p.m.) on Wednesday, about ten of them were there waiting. When we told them, there were ‘screams of joy.’ ‘Their emotion got me choked up’ and I saw several of the women ‘crying because they knew their lives had changed for the better,’” he said.
“You should have seen the company’s attorney’s face when they were counting the votes,” said Ziemba, adding: “The reactions of the Workers will help me get me thorough the year.”