Del. Bus Mechanics Join IBEW


August 20, 2013

Diesel bus mechanics employed by the Delaware Transit Corp. never had much need for a union. That is until one of their own was fired – all because of his breakfast.   

The employee usually packed a banana for his morning break, but after a manager found a peel on top of one of the buses, the long-time DTC veteran was summarily fired.  

“All of a sudden, the guys said ‘maybe we aren’t as secure as we thought we were,” says Regional Organizing Coordinator Steve Rockafellow.

One of the workers had a friend who was a member of Baltimore Local 24 so the first union they contacted was the IBEW.

Groups from both shifts met with Rockafellow and Wilmington Local 2270 Business Manager Frank Gentry last spring.

“They were receptive to what I was saying but I wanted to give them time to talk among themselves before making any big decisions,” says Gentry. “Well they called me up the next morning and said ‘we’re all on board.’” More meetings followed.

Most transit authority employees are unionized, but management was not initially happy about the mechanics’ organizing drive. They asked the state Public Employment Relations Board – which conducts union elections for state employees – to expand the size of the proposed bargaining unit to bring in mechanics who were thought to be less pro-union.

But after meeting with those workers, Gentry found they supported the IBEW as well, joining the original group in voting 21 to 6 on July 31 in a PERB administered election.  

Preparations for first contract negations are underway, with pay and grievance procedures the top issues for employees.

“Union workers at DTC, including members of the Amalgamated Transit Union, were making more money than them, so they want to narrow the gap,” says Gentry. 

They are also fighting to get their fired co-worker back on the job.

Gentry says he is currently meeting with other nonunion workers at the DTC.

“These put in so much work and risked so much to exercise their basic right to organize and collectively bargain,” he says.


Photo used under a Creative Commons License from Flickr user diaper.