Michigan Education Association

MEA members win big in case against Dean Transportation

Court orders private company to bargain with Grand Rapids bus drivers

GRESPA President Steve Spica and member Charisse Patterson
GRESPA President Steve Spica and member Charisse Patterson, a bus driver whose job was privatized.

EAST LANSING, Mich., Jan. 9, 2009 – A private company that employs bus drivers who work in Grand Rapids Public Schools must bargain with their union, a judge ruled today.

The decision is the latest victory for Grand Rapids transportation workers, former school district employees whose jobs were outsourced to a private company in 2005.  In its decision today, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Dean Transportation Inc. to recognize the Grand Rapids Educational Support Professional Association (GRESPA) as the collective bargaining agent for the Grand Rapids employees, including drivers, mechanics and route planners.

“We hope that today’s unanimous decision will result in Dean Transportation deciding to comply with federal law and immediately begin bargaining with us,” said Buz Graeber,  an MEA UniServ director who works with GRESPA.

Since 2005, Dean Transportation has refused to negotiate with GRESPA, a local affiliate of the Michigan Education Association, which represented the workers when they were employed by the school district.

“This is a victory for employees whose jobs are threatened by outsourcing,” said MEA President Iris K. Salters. “The MEA will not abandon members, even when the employer changes.”

The case dates to a June 2005 decision by the Grand Rapids Board of Education to fire district transportation workers and to contract with Dean Transportation Inc. to run the district’s bus service. The decision was made while there was an existing collective bargaining agreement between GRESPA and the school board. The contract between the employees and the school district was due to expire in June 2006.

GRESPA subsequently sued Dean Transportation, alleging intentional interference in the contract.  In 2007, MEA members agreed to a $600,000 legal settlement from Dean just days before that case was scheduled for trial.

MEA filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in October 2005, citing Dean Transportation’s failure to recognize the employees’ union. In September 2006, an administrative law judge ruled in favor of the transportation workers, deciding that Dean Transportation broke the law. Dean appealed to the NLRB, which ordered the company to negotiate. Still, the company refused.

Dean Transportation opted to appeal the case to the D.C. Court of Appeals, where the NLRB is located; Dean could have appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which takes cases from Michigan. The NLRB, on behalf of GRESPA, asked the court to enforce its order.

Today’s decision denied Dean’s appeal and granted the NLRB’s enforcement request.


Updated: February 19, 2009 6:22 PM