‘Thuggish tactics’ remark upsets some school bus drivers in labor dispute

School bus driver Traci Kelley says she’ll pay union dues, but definitely doesn’t want to be a Teamster — or a member of any other union.

Sheron McCampbell says she is a proud union member and is no union thug.

McCampbell is a union steward for Teamsters Local 455 at First Student, the company that provides student transportation for School District 51.

Kelley and her husband, Clark, filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against the Teamsters and First Student, alleging they tried to force her to join the union in late 2009.

The Kelleys’ complaint drew the attention of the National Right to Work Foundation, which agreed to represent them before the labor board. Patrick Semmens, legal information director for the foundation, said when the foundation took the Kelleys’ case he hoped the labor board would “intervene promptly to ensure company and union officials are held accountable for their thuggish tactics.”

That comment got under McCampbell’s skin, as well as that of some other drivers, who said they are just standing up for themselves, just as the Kelleys are doing.

“I’m not a thug and I don’t appreciate being called a thug,” said McCampbell, a 23-year driver for the various companies that have provided transportation services for the school district.

Bus drivers might not be thugs, but the union is to be feared, the Kelleys said, because Traci, an 18-year bus driver, was denied her right to simply stay out of union business.

At the heart of Traci Kelley’s complaint is her desire to pay union dues but hold the union at arm’s length.

“I do not want to wear their stupid little pins,” attend union meetings and the like, Kelley said.

Another bus driver was allowed to take advantage of Colorado state law and contribute dues while being allowed to avoid union membership, Kelley said, and she wants the same consideration.

There are about 160 bus drivers working for First Student in Mesa County, all of them part time, earning $9.75 an hour. In many cases, dues come to about $20 a month.

The union has done much for the bus drivers, McCampbell said, noting that organizers worked hard to bring in Teamsters Local 455 in April of last year and that they garnered enough votes to get a union shop.

That’s a sore point for Kelley, who said the vote actually fell short of the number needed for a union shop.

That’s one of Kelley’s issues to be investigated by the National Labor Relations Board.

The labor board is to send an investigator to look into the allegations, but a spokesman for the Right to Work Foundation said no information has been forthcoming about it.

Traci Kelley filed her complaint after her husband was fired by First Student in what the Kelleys said was retaliation for her vocal anti-unionism.

Clark Kelley, a mechanic, worked in an area of First Student that isn’t unionized.

He was fired because of work he did on a bus with a malfunctioning system that he said was approved by his bosses, Clark Kelley said.

No one else was fired, however, he said, calling the company’s complaints about his actions a “pretext for retaliation.”

A month after Traci Kelley filed her complaint, she and her husband were suspended from their jobs. First Student fired Clark April 21.

There was no anger with Traci Kelley for her opposition to the union, driver Glenda Boren said.

“She’s anti-union but she’s a very nice person,” Boren said.

Still, the complaint rankles because Kelley quit and wasn’t fired by the company, McCampbell and Boren said.

Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the complaint could go before an administrative law judge in Denver.


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