School bus manufacturer workers vote to join USW in Georgia
Workers at Blue Bird Corporation's Fort Valley, Ga., facility voted to join the United Steelworkers union (USW) May 12, seeking "a voice on the job so they can address urgent concerns including workplace health and safety, work-life balance and fair pay," according to a May 12 press release from the USW via PR Newswire.
United Steelworkers International President Tom Conway welcomed the approximately 1,400 workers to the USW and congratulated them on their successful organizing effort.
"We're proud that Blue Bird workers chose to join our union," Conway said, "and we're ready to help them bargain a fair contract that accounts for their contributions to the company's success."
Blue Bird workers, who make school buses, including low-emission and zero-emission models, represent one of the most significant recent organizing efforts by manufacturing workers in the South. It's also relevant that much of their work now comes in the electric realm, with buses and fleets an ever-growing slice of the EV pie.
"Workers at places like Blue Bird in many ways embody the future," said USW District 9 Director Dan Flippo, who represents workers in Georgia and six other Southern states. "They're the ones who are making the investments in our infrastructure a reality, the ones who are building the safer, cleaner communities for generations to come."
Blue Bird has been approved to receive significant funding through the EPA's Clean School Bus program, and Flippo cautioned that with these sorts of federal investments, comes the responsibility to ensure workers have a seat at the table.
"For too long corporations cynically viewed the South as a place where they could suppress wages and working conditions because they believed they could keep workers from unionizing," Flippo said. "Our union has a long history of fighting on behalf of workers in the South and across the country. Now as members of the USW, workers at Blue Bird have the same opportunity to make positive changes in their workplace."
"We work hard, and we deserve fair pay, safe working conditions and to be treated with respect on the job," said Patrick Watkins, a Blue Bird worker who served on the volunteer organizing committee. "It was clear that our only path forward was to take our future into our own hands – and that's what we did today when we voted to organize."
The USW represents 850,000 workers employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in health care, public sector, higher education, tech and service occupations.