Teamsters Push for Bus Driver Unionization, Tech Companies and Contractors Stay Quiet

Neither the unions nor the shuttle contractors are relenting in their scuffle over tech bus drivers.

Though tensions had eased a little by Monday for the Teamsters at Bauer's Intelligent Transportation headquarters, the unions are still upset with the employers of tech bus drivers.

The Teamsters filed an unfair labor relations complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against Bauer, citing Bauer’s surveillance of employees and efforts to prevent employee union elections. That complaint is currently under review. Bauer is one of the eight major shuttle contractors for large, and typically high-tech, Bay Area companies.

When Teamsters began talking to Bauer’s shuttle drivers, the union felt that company management turned hostile. During outreach in the last month, Mark Gleason, principal officer for Teamsters 665, said that management at Bauer followed and confronted the Teamsters who were meeting with drivers in San Francisco. He wouldn't disclose the details of this supposed confrontation.

NBC Bay Area reached out to Bauer several times on Monday, but the company could not be reached for comment.

Bauer’s drivers are not the first in the commuter shuttle industry to consider the possibility of union negotiations. All shuttle drivers for Facebook worked out a contract with the Teamsters this February, raising the average Facebook shuttle driver’s hourly salary from $18 to $24.50. Drivers for Compass Transportation who make up some of the fleets for Ebay, Genentech, Apple, Yahoo, and Zynga recently voted to unionize with Teamsters as well. Gleason says the union has zeroed in on working with shuttle bus drivers because the drivers don’t necessarily reap the financial benefits of working with the tech industry.

Gleason explained, “Unlike the high priced skill set of the workforce in the tech industry, the bus drivers are not well paid.” Gleason estimates that tech bus drivers earn between $30,000 and $35,000 per year.

“Trying to live on $15 to $17 an hour to support yourself let alone a dependent is nearly impossible," Gleason said. " We think this industry should be providing wage and benefit structure that will support (the drivers).” In addition to wage increases, the union is also pushing to encourage compensation for drivers who work extra hours due to split shifts.

Shuttle bus drivers' right to unionize will also be up for public discussion Tuesday at a  San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting to discuss requiring commuter shuttle operators to demonstrate proof of labor harmony.

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