Green Mountain Express Drivers Unanimously Authorize a Strike
A group of Bennington Transit workers gathered on a sunny Sunday in July in Willow Park, from where the Bennington Battle monument could be seen piercing the skyline, to discuss just what to do at the Transit Agency that they work for. In early January, the group had filed with the NLRB to be represented by the Teamsters and after being successful in their election, they had quickly set out to negotiate with the small transit company that they work for, Green Mountain Express, proposing similar pay scales and benefit structures to those seen elsewhere in the state of Vermont.
The drivers discussed what it was like to struggle along, many of them at around $15 per hour, some making even less. All the drivers had been frozen at the same rate since before the pandemic, with brief periods where they were offered ‘Hazard Pay’. The group discussed the pace of negotiations, and the pace of the company offers and the lack of apparent work on the part of the company, as well as the company compensation offers which would continue to keep Green Mountain Express as the lowest paying transit agency in the state, rates which, one person remarked, were not even enough to justify driving into town to work with the current high cost of fuel.
It wasn’t long before one of the more vocal drivers called for action, casting a ballot before any real discussion was had regarding whether to authorize a strike. A short time later, the whole group had made their decision, voting 18-0 to authorize a strike against Green Mountain Express.
Many of the drivers railed against the company's forced on-call policy, which causes employees to be dispatched out in the middle of the night to give rides home from the emergency room. Making it impossible, and frequently illegal, for drivers to drive their next shift due to hours-of-service regulations which the drivers are obligated by the Federal Government to follow. The on-call duty, which pays a mere $5 per day, often costs the driver the entire next day’s shift when there is a busy night, where they only work three to four hours doing multiple trips and lose an eight-hour shift the next day, making it even harder to make ends meet in today’s economy. Drivers spoke out about health consequences of disrupted sleep schedules and worried about how it will affect their ability to keep their driving credentials.
The company’s unwillingness to agree to language to fix air conditioning put one driver on edge during discussion after the meeting, while another mentioned that the company's rejection of language to ensure winter rated tires during months when snow was a possibility could put both driver and passenger at risk. One was hopeful, as the entire negotiating team agreed that proposals from the company had been more forthcoming since the company had become aware of the day’s vote, and the entire negotiating team was cautiously optimistic that the negotiations might have turned a corner.
What it comes down to for the Green Mountain Express drivers is they want a fair contract like those at other transit companies around the state. They are hoping the company will come around but are willing to stand together in order to get a fair contract with Green Mountain Express.