The Tiger Transit drivers of Auburn University have voted to unionize in attempt to get more affordable health care, higher wages and respect in the workplace.
Transit drivers voted April 10, 74 in favor of unionizing, and 22 opposed.
The workers will be joining the International Brotherhood of Teamsters at the 612 location in Birmingham. According to George Yarbrough, business agent with Teamsters in Birmingham, the company represents drivers all over Alabama and has been hearing from the bus drivers of Auburn for more than a year.
“We had started getting calls from these employees when they were working for Groome Transportation several years ago, then, when they made the switch to First Transit, we started getting calls again that they were wanting to organize and form a union in their workplace,” Yarbrough said.
Yarbrough was present for the vote that decided whether the Tiger Transit workers would unionize and said a large amount of the workers were in favor.
“I went to meetings with them to see how much of the board was there, and there was quite a bit ... it was an overwhelming majority of them wanting to form a union,” Yarbrough said.
Yarbrough discussed the reasons behind why these Tiger Transit drivers felt the need to form a union.
“Basically, some of their concerns were health care and wanting a good health care program that was less expensive, and, of course, their wages and respect in their workplace,” Yarbrough said.
Rex Huffman, manager of Tiger Transit of Auburn University, said the contract will be worked out with First Transit, the company that hires the drivers and negotiates their pay.
“The drivers don’t work for the University, they work for First Transit,” Huffman said. “If and when they do organize, their contract would be with First Transit.”
Yarbrough said Teamsters and the workers are in the process of organizing a meeting to discuss a new contract.
“We will be setting up meetings to meet with First Transit to try to negotiate a contract with them,” Yarbrough said.
Yarbrough said he believed the Tiger Transit drivers deserved better than what they were currently getting in their occupation.
“These men and women are hardworking individuals and work long hours and provide a service to the students of Auburn, and I’m sure Auburn would want their employees treated with respect and want their wages to be competitive,” Yarbrough said.
The general manager of First Transit in Auburn declined to comment for this story.