Calvin Studivant
Calvin Studivant

First Student Bus Company/William Penn School District in Darby, Pennsylvania went to arbitration against the SMART Transportation Division and lost. Representing SMART TD was Bus Department Alternate Vice President Calvin Studivant who went to bat for local 172.

Studivant didn’t do it alone; he had help from General Chairperson Theresa Costantini, Vice Local Chairperson Denise Hall and Local 172 Secretary Kathleen Sitongia along the way. Both Costantini and Sitongia testified in the case against First Student.

“First let me say this case was very important. We arbitrated this case on July 30th which caused me to miss the regional in Anaheim,” Studivant said. “Prior to arbitration we had done mediation and the mediator had informed the company that they were wrong, but since mediation was not binding we pursued it through arbitration. I was the presenter of the union’s case and all the aforementioned were witnesses that together hold over 70 years of experience, therefore I was very confident in the case that we presented.”

Arbitrator Thomas G. McConnell Jr., found that the company was in violation of the Collective Bargaining agreement and ordered the bus company to pay it’s employees back-pay.

“I am ecstatic that we prevailed because it represents a substantial amount of money in back wages and wages going forward,” Studivant exclaimed. “First Student delayed us as long as they could but we refused to be denied. It took a year to hear the case and get an award but the victory was worth the wait.”

According to Costantini, Sitongia and management, members could bid on runs based on the run and the time it took to do the runs. Up until 2012 (the union has had a contract with the bus company since 2008, the most recent contract voted in lasts from 2011 to 2014), members were always paid by the estimated time listed on the job plus any extra time it took to do the run.

If a job was estimated to take two hours and 20 minutes but only took two hours, the member would be paid the two hours and 20 minutes that he or she bid on. If it took the driver two hours and 30 minutes, the driver would be paid the full two hours and 30 minutes.

In 2012, it was decided by management, without union approval, that members would be paid the actual time it took to do the job rather than the estimated time. According to this new policy, the member would only get paid for the two hours instead of the two hours and 20 minutes.

Members choose their runs based on seniority and have two concerns when choosing a run:

  1. How much will I be paid?
  2. When will I get home?

When First Student changed the way drivers are paid, this negatively impacted the seniority system and made these questions null because drivers could no longer have a guarantee of how much money they would be making per run.

Management of the company admits that no dry runs are ever done to determine the estimated times and that the company relies on VersaTrans system to estimate the times for them. VersaTrans is a software routing system that defines a bus route based on parameters put in by the District, including bell times and location of the schools. The VersaTrans system then provides an approximate time of how long the run will take.

Although the contract states that hours stated for a job are estimates and not exact times and that hours are not guaranteed, the contract does not state that actual times instead of the estimates would be used for payroll purposes.

McConnell found that since the company had followed the practice of paying the drivers by estimated times throughout the 2008-2011 contract the company would need to have negotiated a contract change in the 2011-2014 contract as precedence had already been set, which they did not do. It was therefore found that the company violated the collective bargaining agreement and was directed to return to their prior practice of paying by times estimated and not by actual time. The company was also ordered to pay members any lost wages due them.

“I would like to thank GC Theresa Costantini along with secretary Kathy Sitongia who kept meticulous records and chairperson Denise Hall,” Studivant said.

Click here to read the full arbitration award.

“First Student bus drivers and mechanics from Local 1908 are so much more than just people who get your children to and from school,” said Local Secretary Joann Ehrhardt.
If you need proof, just ask some of those children.
After a Buffalo, N.Y., School District family of six lost everything to a Dec. 1 house fire, the members of Local 1908 set their holiday wheels in motion.
It all started when Pam Przybylak, the manager at First Student’s Gruner Road Terminal, posted a flyer looking for donations for the family.
Local 1908 members, along with management employees and Buffalo Board of Education bus aides, were suddenly transformed into Santa’s elves.
“Pam gave us a list of the children’s ages and clothes sizes, and people just went shopping,” Ehrhardt said. “We collected presents for the whole family, along with non-perishable food items.”
“Some people collected food from a local food bank, some donated cash and others picked up donated items from one member’s church.”
On Dec. 21, the presents, food, blankets, towels and more were delivered to the family.
“One of the bus aides even bought a Christmas tree, and another bought ornaments, and they actually decorated the tree for them,” Ehrhardt said.
“This truly was collaborative effort,” Ehrhardt added. “Everybody in our terminal contributed.
It’s really nothing new at Local 1908. First Student employees also adopted a family, whose father had recently lost his job, and delivered gifts and food to them. “We usually call Catholic Charities and get the name of a family in need, along with children’s clothing sizes and whether they have boys or girls,” Ehrhardt said. “We do that every year.”
The local also represents drivers in the communities of Cheektowaga and Williamsville and bus mechanics in Rochester.
Ehrhardt said that at a recent local meeting, one of the Local 1908 members asked why their local was never in the UTU News, “so I thought I would send this in.”

First Student employees at Buffalo, N.Y., load the sports utility vehicle that served as Santa’s sleigh
after they decided to deliver Christmas to a family that lost everything in a house fire.

UTU-represented school bus operators in Upper Darby, Pa., and members of UTU Local 172, turned back a raid by the Teamsters, voting overwhelmingly to keep the UTU as their bargaining representative on this First Student property.
The UTU’s ability to negotiate industry-leading contracts, process grievances and achieve workplace safety improvements were cited by many members as the reason they voted “UTU yes” once again. Local 172 members chose the UTU as their first bargaining representative eight years ago when the property was unorganized.
Rich Ross, the UTU’s director of organizing, credited organizer Mike Lewis and Bus Department Alternate Vice President Calvin Studivant as “a brain trust second to none in explaining the benefits of UTU representation.”
Ross also thanked International President Mike Futhey for providing the resources necessary. Since Futhey took office in January 2008, the UTU has organized 28 new properties and turned back two raids on UTU properties.
Also singled out for praise were numerous officers at Local 1594 (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority), including President Waverly Harris, Vice Local Chairpersons Brian Caldwell and Curtis Fulmore, and Treasurer Cynthia Kelly-Nash, along with Local 1596 General Chairperson (Transit Management of Charlotte, N.C.) Alvy Hughes.
Local 172 officials who worked diligently to turn back the Teamsters raid were Vice Local Chairperson Denise Hall and Secretary Kathy Sitongia. Ross said that “they have developed a loyalty among members.”


By Bonnie Morr
Vice President, Bus Department

The UTU has gained a new First Transit property in Farmington, N.M., which is now in Local 1687 out of Albuquerque. Contract negotiations have begun.

We also are in the initial stages of organizing some 200 workers on a transit property and a light rail property in Southern California.

I am currently assisting Local 1741, whose members are employed by First Student in San Francisco as they prepare for two arbitrations, including a discipline issue and a workers’ compensation issue. In both cases we are seeking reinstatement of the members.

With assistance from the International Law Department, we recently completed a trial at the National Labor Relations Board over an unfair labor practice at a UTU property in Riverside, Calif., which had been closed without holding negotiations.

We are seeking from the NLRB a severance package for the 135 members who lost their jobs. Final briefs are due in mid-February.

Alternate Vice President Calvin Studivant has been working with Waverly Harris, general chairperson at Local 1574 (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) on numerous grievances where they have settled seven of 10 without having to go to arbitration.

At Local 1715, which represents drivers employed by Charlotte Area Transit System, a driver was reinstated with full back pay after Calvin Studivant defended the driver in arbitration.

In Washington, we are facing a battle with legislation introduced by the House Republican majority attacking transit operating assistance and pushing for privatization that would permit foreign-based operators to enter the U.S. market and access federal transit aid.

This legislation also attacks 13(C) protections of the Federal Transit Act that we worked so hard to protect. They require continuation of collective bargaining rights, and protection of transit employees’ wages, working conditions, pension benefits, seniority, vacation, sick and personal leave, and other conditions of employment, as well as paid training or retraining, when federal funds are used to take over a transit operation.

The UTU National Legislative Office and other transit unions are working to halt this attack, and donations to the UTU PAC will provide additional assistance in this election year.

WASHINGTON – A former official with three bus operators employing UTU members has been elected president and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), which represents bus and transit operators before Congress and regulatory agencies. The appointment is effective Nov. 1.

Michael P. Melaniphy most recently was vice president of bus manufacturer Motor Coach Industries in Schaumburg, Ill.

From 1989 to 1990, Melaniphy was an executive with First Group, whose subsidiaries include First Student, a school-bus operator employing UTU members at numerous locations. From 1990 to 1991, he was assistant general manager of El Metro in Laredo, Texas (a former UTU property), and from 1998 to 2001, he was general manager of UTU-represented Transit Management in Charlotte, N.C.

While in college at Indiana University, Melaniphy drove for the campus bus system and was team driver for the Bobby Knight-coached basketball team.

Melaniphy, who has been a member of the APTA board of directors, succeeds William Millar, who is retiring following 15 years as APTA president.