School bus drivers' union to hold press conference, forum today

info@islandpacket.comApril 16, 2013 

In this file photo, A school bus driver pulls out of the parking lot to start her afternoon route on Jan. 28 at the Beaufort County School District office in Beaufort.

SARAH WELLIVER

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 strike, 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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