BENNINGTON -- Nearly a month after a single challenged ballot left the notion of Green Mountain Express bus driver joining the Teamsters Union hanging, the National Labor Relations Board has ruled in the union’s favor.
The bus company has until July 11 to appeal the decision made on Friday by Lisa J. Fierce, hearing officer for the NLRB.
Tony St. Hilaire, business agent for Teamsters Local 597, said if the company does not appeal then work to draft a contract stipulating working conditions, raises, and benefits for union members will begin.
Donna Baker, executive director of Green Mountain Community Network, the private non-profit that owns Green Mountain Express, did not return a call seeking comment on Monday.
On May 28 a vote was held at Green Mountain Express headquarters on 215 Pleasant St. Twenty-three were eligible to cast ballots, but only 22 did. Voting to join the union were 11 employees; voting "no" were 10 employees. The union challenged a ballot cast by Dawn Julius, arguing that she was not a driver and not part of the agreed-upon group that would be voting whether to join the union. Green Mountain Community Network felt differently and the matter went before the labor relations board on June 16.
To join the Teamsters Union a simple majority of votes was required. A tie would have meant the drivers would not join.
Fierce’s written decision includes a summary of facts heard at the hearing. She wrote that GMCN employees 19 part-time and full-time drivers, one maintenance person. Julius works as the Medicaid coordinator, while Emma Lee Russell is a receptionist, and Bill Buryk is a dispatcher.
In addition to bus routes, GMCN has a "demand response service" where rides can be scheduled. It transports Medicaid patients to appointments, elderly and people with disabilities, and children to daycare.
Julius was a driver until about three years ago when she became responsible for billing Medicaid for the transportation work GMCN does with those clients. She still drives, according to the decision, when other response drivers are behind schedule, absent, or there is a high demand.
Russell also does some driving work, Fierce wrote.
According to Fierce, on April 29 there was a written agreement between the Teamsters Union and GMCN as to who would be voting. It included, "...a unit of bus drivers, van drivers, and maintenance employees but (excluded) all other employees, dispatchers, clerical employees, managers, guards, and supervisors."
Julius and Russell were not on the first list of people who would be voting.
According to the decision, Baker testified at the hearing that GMCN hired a labor consultant, who suggested she consult with counsel about Julius and Russell not being on the list.
A new list including their names was sent to St. Hilaire, who testified that he intended to challenge the names, however the union observer at the vote forgot to challenge the ballot cast by Russell, so it was counted.
The bus company argued that Julius did enough driving to count as a driver, and that the agreement, while not listing her main job, did not exclude it, either. Fierce wrote that in such cases where the meaning would be ambiguous, there would other things to consider, but the stipulation excluded "all other employees," and so she did not address Julius’ double-function.
A bus driver who spoke to the Banner in May said the move to go union was being made because drivers felt they were not being treated respectfully by management, and that mechanical issues they were reporting with the vehicles are not being fixed.
Baker has said she has an "open door" policy with employees and that unsafe vehicles are not put on the road.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.