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Major Win for Rhode Island School Bus Workers

Legislation Improves Environmental and Labor Protections for Industry

Legislation protecting workers in the school bus industry pushed by Teamsters Local 251 and other unions (H6118A and S635A), passed the Rhode Island General Assembly overwhelmingly and was signed into law last Friday. Local 251 Secretary-Treasurer Matt Taibi, who has been at the forefront of crafting legislation to improve workers’ lives in Rhode Island, was among the first to testify at a Senate hearing on S635A.

“We are proud to have played a role in getting this bill passed into law,” said Taibi. “We are thankful for State Representative Gregg Amore and State Senator Val Lawson being the prime sponsors of this legislation, for the State House and State Senate leadership supporting this legislation, for the Governor signing the bill and for the hard work of Teamsters Legislative Director Paul MacDonald moving workers’ issues through the legislative process.”

The pro-worker and pro-environmental provisions of the law will be considered model language for workers in the school bus industry across the country. The bill became law upon Governor McKee’s signature later this month.

“This law has so many great provisions for workers in the school bus industry,” said Taibi.  “Top among them is prevailing wages for drivers, monitors and aides. This is frequently seen in construction, but has been lacking among student transportation companies. This means that school bus contractors that have traditionally hired inexperienced, low-paid workers can’t undercut responsible contractors that have seasoned, well-trained workers with low-ball bids. The safety of our school children hangs in the balance when contracts are awarded based solely on the lowest cost.”

Some other major highlights of the legislation include a mandatory minimum of 180 paid days to match the school calendar, guaranteed due process for workers when schools or customers want to remove a school bus worker and preferences for contractors using electric school buses.

“Due process to protect workers against false accusations is another important part of this law,” said Paul MacDonald, Local 251 Legislative Director. “We have had too many school bus workers disciplined over unsubstantiated claims of wrongdoing. Recently one worker was accused of, and terminated for, carrying a knife. It turned out to be a nail file. All too often, there has been a difficult process for ensuring that the discipline fits the offense, if any. We believe in progressive and corrective discipline – not unjustified punishment – so that workers do the best possible job for our kids and our communities.”

“We pushed so hard for workers to be paid for the 180 mandated school days because if taxpayers are paying for 180 days of transportation, revenue contracts should reflect this and the workers should be paid for them as well,” said Brooke Reeves, Local 251 Assistant Business Agent. “School bus workers are already in high demand. They work split shifts and have planned layoffs throughout the year, with compensation that is average at best. Having additional layoff days with reduced earnings just pushes workers out of the industry, which hurts our kids and our communities.”

“We look forward to continuing to improve the lives of school bus workers through the good contracts we negotiate and passing legislation like this,” said Taibi.

Teamsters Local 251 represents over 6,300 workers in a wide variety of industries throughout Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts, including approximately 1,000 school bus workers in Rhode Island.

Teamster Convention—Agenda & How to Watch

The 30th International Teamster Convention will take place Tuesday, June 22 through Thursday, June 24 and is scheduled to run from 12:00 pm—6:00 pm Eastern Time each day.

Click here to download the agenda for the Convention.

How to Watch: Members—who are not delegates or alternate delegates—and retirees will be able to observe the Convention at this web portal. It will be activated at the start of the Convention on June 22, and no password will be needed.

The convention app can also be downloaded through Apple or Android for phones or tablets by searching “Teamsters Union.” The Convention website will be www.teamster-app.org.

Certified delegates and alternate delegates must register to view and participate in the Convention via a special Convention Viewing Platform.

Rhode Island Hospital Scholarship Application

Local 251 is awarding ten $3,500 college scholarships to children of Rhode Island Hospital Teamster employees. This benefit was negotiated in our union contract with Lifespan. A drawing will be held to determine the scholarship winners. Applicants must be the son or daughter of a Teamster member in good standing at Rhode Island Hospital to be eligible to apply.

Applications should be returned to the Union Hall or submitted to a Liaison, Union Representative, or the RIH H.R. Department. Only one (1) application per student. Applications must be received by July 31.

Click here to download a printable application form.

Strike! Workers at Johnson Brothers Demand Living Wages and Better Healthcare

In September 2020, 12 workers from Johnson Brothers Distributing, the exclusive supplier of Gallo Wine products in Rhode Island, voted to join Teamsters Local 251 in East Providence.

The workers get paid as little as $15 per hour and may pay up to $20,300 per year out of their pocket to pay for substandard family healthcare coverage.

The company has dragged out negotiations, increased their workload by not supplying helpers on bigger loads, and offered a measly 5 cents more per hour above their normal paltry raises. They have also rejected improvements to healthcare coverage and retirement security.

We believe the company has also committed unfair labor practices.

The workers had no choice except to withhold their labor and go on strike.Show Johnson Brothers that Rhode Islanders stick together and don’t appreciate bigwig outsiders from Minnesota, Florida, and California coming here and treating their minority workforce like second-class citizens.

Picket lines are up 24 hours a day at:
Johnson Brothers of RI
120 Moscrip Ave
North Kingstown RI 02852

A year ago, they were heroes. They deserve better treatment!
Let Johnson Brothers know about your concerns:
651-649-5800 Corporate 401-583-0050 Rhode Island

May 2021 Membership Meeting

Brothers & Sisters
The May 2021 Monthly Membership meeting will be conducted outside in the Local parking lot, on the scheduled date and time. Face masks and social distancing will be required, even if State and CDC guidelines do not require this. We will provide masks if members and retirees do not have one. This meeting will be rain or shine, so prepare accordingly.

April 2021 Membership Meeting

April Membership Meeting Notice

Brothers & Sisters:

Due to CDC guidelines and State of RI directives on public gatherings during the current pandemic, Teamsters Local 251 Executive Board voted to hold the April 2021 monthly meeting virtually. Such RI state directives prohibit large indoor meetings. When larger gatherings are allowed, we will explore outdoor meetings. But for April 2021, we will be conducting a membership meeting virtually instead.

All members are encouraged to participate in the membership meeting.

April Membership Meeting
Sunday, April 25, 2021 starting at 10:00 AM
Text Meeting251 to 313131 to Register
Please Respond to the Question(s) Asked

You must register ahead to access these meetings, to verify your standing in the union. To do so, please text Meeting251 to 313131 or call 401-434-0454 x222 during normal business hours. Cut off for registration is Friday April 23 at 4:30pm. We will provide login or call in information by text alert on the morning of the meeting to those who register. There is a limit on number of attendees so attendance is on a first come basis.

March 2021 Membership Meeting

March Membership Meeting Notice

Brothers & Sisters:

Due to CDC guidelines and State of RI directives on public gatherings during the current pandemic, Teamsters Local 251 Executive Board voted to hold the March 2021 monthly meeting virtually. Such RI state directives prohibit large indoor meetings. When larger gatherings are allowed, we will explore outdoor meetings. But for March 2021, we will be conducting a membership meeting virtually instead.

All members are encouraged to participate in the membership meeting.

March Membership Meeting
Sunday,March 28, 2021 starting at 10:00 AM
Text Meeting251 to 313131 to Register
Please Respond to the Question(s) Asked

You must register ahead to access these meetings, to verify your standing in the union. To do so, please text Meeting251 to 313131 or call 401-434-0454 x222 during normal business hours. Cut off for registration is Friday March 26 at 4:30pm. We will provide login or call in information by text alert on the morning of the meeting to those who register. There is a limit on number of attendees so attendance is on a first come basis.

Members Blow the Whistle on Harassment at UPS

Local 251 members came together to blow the whistle on harassment at UPS. United action by our union paid off. The very next day, the supervisor who serially harassed members was removed from his position.

For months, members on the preload shift filed grievances against a supervisor who harassed and humiliated employees. 

More than a dozen members filed harassment grievances with no response from management. The final straw came when the supervisor screamed at a hearing-impaired employee and told the shop steward, “I don’t give a crap about his handicap.”

When management continued to postpone grievance meetings, members took action. 

On February 18, shop stewards distributed leaflets and over 400 whistles to drivers and inside employees at shift change. 

“A lot of members hadn’t heard about the issue. Once they did, they wanted to send the message that we have each other’s backs,” said Jack Warren, the lead steward for the drivers.

“We let everyone know what was going on. Drivers were blowing the whistles as they went inside. The leaflets were everywhere,” said Matt Knowlton, the chief steward for the preload. 

“When we came back to work that night, members were blowing the whistles like crazy. That definitely got management’s attention and turned up the heat,” Knowlton said. 

The very next morning, management stopped stonewalling and met with the member and union representatives. The supervisor was demoted and lost his position as the number two boss on the shift. 

“It’s been a rough year. This was a real morale booster,” Knowlton said. 

“The message is clear. If you have a situation, your union has your back.” Warren said.