Thanks to a joint effort by the TWU International Organizing Department and TUUS Division, in just over six months, membership at Local 263 in Ysleta, Texas has quadrupled in size. Local 263 represents bus operators and mechanics in the Ysleta Independent School District.
Organizing Director Angelo Cucuzza explained that this past spring, International Rep Jose Cruz and Local 100 Member Organizer Jemary Pabon, set up meetings with folks who were interested in revitalizing the local after President Arvol Brumley passed after contracting Covid in December, “We held productive meetings on the property – and Cruz got someone to step up and run for local president.”
That someone is Ruth Villalobos.
She initially did not want the position, but so many new members said, “The only way I’m going to sign a card is if you lead it.”
After nominations and an election, she was sworn in with her new executive board in June. With strength in numbers, the local is already seeing improvements.
“We got a really good raise for our employees…stipends were more than expected,” Villalobos said. “Our accommodations are not the best, but they are renewing our bathrooms. A big, big plus is we are getting new buses. The ones we drive every day are run down.
“We need to get more members and we are trying to make it work,” she continued. “Older members are appreciative. Most don’t understand what the union is about. It’s not just us representing you, we can go before the school board, ask for what we need and work it out.”
Local 263’s goal is to be 100 percent organized, which isn’t an easy feat in a Right to Work (RTW) state like Texas where labor laws are weak. The Weingarten Act is not supported in the state, however during a disciplinary meeting, a union rep is allowed to stop a member from speaking and take them outside to advise them.
“We’re looking to have a new organizing drive and are determined to get everyone we can,” Cruz said.
“Right now, it’s very exciting to see people motivated and wanting to work at this,” Villalobos said. “It’s a blessing to see that people want more. I am praying that I am a good leader, that I can get them what they need, have answers when they need them, and I can guide them to a good place where they have faith in the union. I have a good team under me.”
“The efforts of Jemary and Cruz is mainly how we made this happen,” Cucuzza said. “The Organizing Department and TUUS Division are working together on several other organizing efforts across other RTW areas in the country.”