Teamsters Continue to Protect School Bus Workers in Contract Fight

After repeatedly ignoring determinations by the National Labor Relations Board, Chicago school bus company Latino Express is approaching its final stop on a four-year campaign of worker mistreatment and wage theft.

On January 16, the NLRB instituted enforcement proceedings against Latino Express for failing to negotiate in good faith with Teamsters Local 777, the exclusive bargaining representative for the company’s 100 school bus workers. Latino Express employees first voted to join the Teamsters in April 2011. Since then, the company has refused to negotiate a fair contract, fired multiple workers without just cause and accumulated more than $75,000 in lost wages and legal fees that remain unpaid.

The NLRB’s latest ruling, issued by Regional Director Peter Sung Ohr, calls out Latino Express for its routine failure to comply with the board’s decisions or to fulfill its legal obligations.

“Local 777 applauds the Labor Board for holding Latino Express accountable for its actions,” said James T. Glimco, President of Local 777 and Trustee of Teamsters Joint Council 25. “By recommending that enforcement proceedings begin, the NLRB can move beyond simply issuing a determination to ensuring Latino Express pays its bills, pays its workers and comes to the bargaining table ready to negotiate.”

Since the school bus workers joined Local 777, Latino Express has appealed every decision issued by the NLRB, while refusing to negotiate with the men and women who make the company run. On August 3, 2012, the NLRB ruled in favor of Local 777’s first round of unfair labor practice charges. The board ordered Latino Express to reinstate two workers whom the company fired without just cause earlier that year.

The company appealed that ruling, but the NLRB filed an injunction to reinstate the employees. Latino Express finally gave the workers their jobs back when the injunction was upheld, but as of this year still has not repaid them for wages lost during termination.

Last year, the NLRB issued another decision and set a precedent for all American companies that unfairly fire employees. The board ordered Latino Express to reimburse workers for federal taxes owed on any outstanding wages following a termination and reinstatement.

“Latino Express is running out of options. Only so many rulings can be appealed, only so many decisions can be ignored before this company’s feet will ultimately be held to the fire,” said Elizabeth Gonzalez, Local 777 Trustee and Business Agent. “The NLRB’s new ruling should be a loud and clear message to employers everywhere that the Teamsters will not back down in our pursuit of workers’ rights for all.”

Teamsters Local 777 is an affiliate of Teamsters Joint Council 25, America’s premier labor union for Chicago, Illinois and northwest Indiana.