Privatizers Union Busting Tactics After Take-over Of School Bus Operation

Privatizers Union Busting Tactics After Take-over Of School Bus Operation

http://www.milforddailynews.com/news/20180121/ex-framingham-bus-driver-s...
Ex- Framingham bus driver says schools retaliated against union reps

Pictured are school buses parked at the Framingham Public Schools school bus yard on Fountain Street. Marlene Jackson, a resident of Beaver Street, claims in a lawsuit filed late last year in Framingham District Court that she was unable to land a job with Framingham’s new private bus carrier, Durham School Services, after the company took over the system in 2011. [Daily News file photo/Ken McGagh]
By Jim Haddadin
Daily News Staff

Posted Jan 21, 2018 at 12:01 AM
FRAMINGHAM — A former Framingham bus driver is taking the city to court, alleging the school district blackballed union reps after it privatized bus service several years ago, forcing them out of their jobs in retaliation for a costly labor complaint.

Marlene Jackson, a resident of Beaver Street, claims in a lawsuit filed late last year in Framingham District Court that she was unable to land a job with Framingham’s new private bus carrier, Durham School Services, after the company took over the system in 2011.

Jackson drove school buses for the town from 1989 until the switch occurred, and received numerous safety awards, including recognition for driving more than 16 years without an accident, according to her lawsuit.

After learning of the school district’s plan to privatize bus service, the Framingham School Bus Drivers Association filed a claim with the state’s Department of Labor Relations on May 9, 2011, alleging the town improperly changed working conditions without negotiating with union members.

Jackson — then a senior member of the union’s collective bargaining team — claims in her lawsuit that the state found in favor of the union, determining the town should pay damages. Jackson’s lawyer pegged the cost of the payout at approximately $400,000.

In a separate labor complaint filed by a bus driver several years ago against the union, a state official responsible for reviewing Framingham’s switch to private bus service pegged the settlement figure at $497,000.

Nearly 70 drivers lost their jobs following the School Committee’s decision to fully privatize bus service, which passed by a 5-1 vote. Officials said at the time the School Department could save nearly $300,000 in a single year by hiring Durham School Services, the lowest bidder, to provide both buses and drivers under a new five-year contract.

The schools had previously leased buses, and hired their own staff to drive them.

When Durham took over, only the School Department’s transportation administrators and dispatchers stayed on, though other drivers were free to apply for positions with Durham School Services.

Under the new contract, Framingham retained the right to approve school bus drivers. When Jackson applied for a position with the company in 2016, Durham School Services offered her a job, but she was allegedly denied the spot by the School Department’s transportation director, according to her lawsuit.

Since then, the town has “refused to provide an explanation” as to why Jackson wasn’t hired, according to her suit. She claims none of the union’s lead representatives were approved for new bus driver jobs.

In a two-count lawsuit, Jackson now seeks $25,000 from the city, plus attorney’s fees and costs. She is accusing the town and its transportation director of interference with contractual or advantageous business relations and “vicious liability.”

Efforts to reach Jackson last week for comment were unsuccessful. Her lawyer, Kevin P. Braga, did not return a phone message.

A message left Thursday with Framingham Superintendent Robert Tremblay also was not returned.

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 617-863-7144 or jhaddadin@wickedlocal.com. Follow him on Twitter: @JimHaddadin