claims that the district administration is acting in bad faith
by deliberately stalling on coming to terms on an initial
contract in the hope that enough drivers will lose heart and
agree to decertify the union. The chief weapon for doing so,
according to a union source, is denying or restricting a pay
officials declined to comment.
the drivers are covered by the state's Public School Employment
Relations Act -- which gives them the right to organize and
requires boards of education to collectively bargain -- it is
questionable whether the mandated arbitration will be able to do
much to break the stalemate.
Murray-Sheppard, principal aide to the Public Employment
Relations Board, said it is non-binding arbitration and that
both sides must agree to the arbitrator's recommendations before
they are effective. If they don't agree, she said, "it will be
up to public pressure to resolve or not resolve the issue."
Arbitrator Martha Cooper is beginning the fact-finding phase of
her effort. Murray-Sheppard said both sides agreed upon her
selection. She described Cooper as a labor-relations
professional with no direct tie to the three-member relations
board, itself an autonomous panel supported by the state
Department of Administrative Services.
Cooper is believed not to be related to Ellen Cooper,
Brandywine's in-house lawyer. In any event, the district is
being represented in this matter by David Williams, of the
Morris James Hitchens & Williams law firm, who was Brandywine's
legal counsel before Ellen Cooper was hired.
teachers and most other non-managerial employees represented by
unions and relations with those organizations apparently on good
terms, there would seem little likelihood that Brandywine would
be resistant to further unionizing. The difference in this case,
however, could be that the drivers chose to belong to Local 1183
of the United Auto Workers. That local primarily represents
workers at the Daimler Chrysler automobile assembly plant in
Newark. The other Brandywine unions are not affiliates of
Brandywine has about 100 bus drivers. They reportedly voted for
the union by a two-to-one margin in March, 2003, with about a
75% participation rate in the referendum.
source said that pay and about 95 unresolved grievances, most of
which deal with working conditions, are the issues blocking a
drivers reportedly are paid on a scale which ranges from $12.91
an hour for new hires to $15.33 an hour for those with 13 or
more years of experience. Of that, the state pays $12.01 an
hour. A local contract would cover the district supplement.
to the source, the district offered an additional 4¢ an hour and
has not budged from that since negotiations began in June, 2003.
half of the drivers are said to be long-time employees, with at
least seven and up to more than 20 years of service. Attrition
is endemic among the other half as the workers gain experience
and qualify for jobs in the private sector. A driver on the
Atlantic City casino run, the top rung in the business, makes
between $25 and $30 an hour.
Brandywine drivers work split shifts averaging a total of 25 to
30 hours a week on regular school runs and can bid on additional
work, such as driving students on filed trips and to athletic
events, on a rotating arrangement based on seniority. Because
their regular employment does not total 40 hours a week,
time-and-a-half overtime does not kick in until weekends.
Layovers on the special runs are paid at minimum wage.
In a few
cases, the union source said, an aide on a bus, who is covered
by Brandywine's paraprofessionals contract, is earning more than
object of the grievances, according to the source, is the
district's bus depot in northeast Wilmington. Several drivers
reportedly have been injured in the parking lot because of the
poor condition of the paving there and there is said to be a
serious security problem. The parking lot is outside the fenced
depot, where the buses and stored and maintained. Brandywine
leases the depot.