Jon Bradford is president of Transport Workers (TWU) Local 226, representing some 800 bus drivers and social service workers in New Jersey. The local is about to grow by 100 members, thanks to a successful organizing campaign by bus driver Luis Del Toro and his co-workers who work for Trans-Ed, a company that provides bus service to school districts in northern New Jersey.
“We had a very strong committee,” says Bradford. “The committee is the rock.”
Del Toro recalls the events leading up to the election.
“The boss called a meeting and he actually pissed off everybody….He told us we would have to pay damages if there was an accident, even though he has insurance.”
“We’re tired of him abusing us,” continues Del Toro. “So I called up Jon and said, ‘The people are ready.’”
First Win Under New NLRB Rules
The TWU victory in New Jersey is the first-ever campaign conducted under new workplace election rules issued by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The rules, finalized last December, took effect in April. They’re intended to create a more level playing field, increase transparency and eliminate long delays that can be costly to both employers and workers seeking union representation.
Del Toro and a team of his co-workers turned in cards asking for a representation election on April 14, the first day the new rules took effect. On April 27, less than two weeks later, union supporters won a solid 66–31 majority and their election win was certified on May 6.
Just a month after their campaign got started, Trans-Ed workers are now talking about what they’d like to see in their first collective bargaining agreement.
“I want everything to change,” says Del Toro. “Right now we’ve got no medical, no benefits. I want my vacations paid. I want to be an eight-hour driver, not a four-hour driver.”
This isn’t the first time Trans-Ed workers have joined together to try to improve their workplace. Two years ago, an organizing drive was unsuccessful after the company owner called a series of captive audience meetings—including one in which he crammed dozens of drivers inside a school bus and threatened to sell the business.
This time around, it was a different story.
For many years, employers have stalled workplace elections, arguing for months and years about the size and shape of potential bargaining units. The goal is to take the momentum out of organizing campaigns—or to cancel the election altogether.
Fewer Delays, More Democracy
The delay-or-deny strategy will become more difficult under the new NLRB rules, which require employers to provide a list of eligible voters two days after workers file a show of interest in forming a union. Elections will be scheduled, the rules state, on the “earliest date practicable.”
Now, workers get to have their say first—and lawyers can start arguing after the votes have been counted.
A slew of business groups—including the Associated Builders and Contractors, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Retail Federation—are challenging the new rules in court. According to one legal filing, more than 140 groups of workers have filed for union representation since the new rules took effect on April 14.
“The best part is, the rules cut down on the delay tactics employers typically use,” says TWU Organizing Director Steve Roberts. “I’ve never seen an election this fast.”