UFCW Local 328 News

Elected Officials in Cumberland, RI, Sign Letter of Support for School Transportation Employees, Urges Durham School Services to Act With Sense of Urgency

(the letter is displayed at the bottom of the page)

After months of Durham School Service failing to address critical concerns of their employees, elected officials in Cumberland, Rhode Island, call on Bus Company to do what is right for their workers and our communities in advance of school reopening

On Wednesday, July 22nd, elected officials in Cumberland, Rhode Island delivered a signed letter to Michael Goddard, Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Durham School Services, urging the company to “come to an agreement which offers a better future for your employees and ensures both student and worker safety as we prepare to reopen schools.”

These essential school transportation employees, who service Cumberland Public Schools, Blackstone Valley Prep and Providence Mayoral Academy, formed their union with UFCW Local 328 in September of 2019 to address critical issues that impact both safety and service for their communities.

In June, employees at Durham delivered a signed petition calling on the company to address their concerns. You can read about it here: https://bit.ly/3hAYS2W

With the added responsibilities, changes in working conditions, additional hazards and risks both workers and children will be facing and the need to improve staffing levels, the company’s out-of-state negotiator is offering no improvement in wages for employees who earn as little as $11.22 an hour. This is despite the fact that National Express, the parent company of Durham School Services, earned $300 million in profit in 2019. Durham currently offers some of the lowest wages in the state for both monitors and drivers, which has led to under-staffing, high employee turnover, serious safety concerns and disruptions in service for our communities.

Patricia St. Pierre, a bus driver and trainer with Durham, spoke in a recent interview with Rhode Island Labor Vision. She stated, “As far as the disrespect that is happening with the company as far as not sitting down to negotiate, it’s not just the drivers and monitors that are being disrespected, but it’s the families, it’s the parents, it’s the children because that’s what this is all about. We drive the most precious cargo in the world, which is the kids, and this is what it’s about. It’s about getting the kids to and from school safely.”

The letter from the elected officials also reads, “We have been discouraged to learn that despite many requests by UFCW, Local 328, Durham has not agreed to any meetings in July and there is only one scheduled meeting dated for August 4th.”

The elected officials who signed the letter include Senator Ryan Pearson, Mayor Jeffrey Mutter, Representative Alex Marszalkowski, Representative Mia Ackerman, Town Council President E. Craig Dwyer, Town Council President Pro-Tem Lisa Beaulieu, Town Councilor Michael Kinch, Town Councilor Stephanie Gemski, School Committee Chair Paul DiModica, School Committee Member Karen Freedman and School Committee Member Jennifer Bernardo.

We want to thank the elected officials of Cumberland for supporting these hard-working school transportation employees who serve an essential role in keeping our children safe. We urge Durham School Services to do what is right and to come to the table to reach a meaningful agreement as soon as possible. Rhode Island families deserve it.

To read the letter, see below: