After a three-year organizing struggle, workers who manufacture school buses for Blue Bird in Fort Valley GA voted last month to be represented by the Steelworkers. Blue Bird is the second-largest bus manufacturer in the country. Steelworkers organizing director Maria Somma said, “It’s been a long time since a manufacturing site with 1,400 people has been organized, let alone organized in the South, let alone organized with predominantly African American workers, and let alone in the auto industry.” Only 4.4 percent of workers in Georgia are represented by a union.

The federal Clean School Buses program, which subsidizes Blue Bird’s bus production, prohibits recipients from using funds to campaign against unions. Enforcement is weak, but the federal policy nonetheless had a deterrent effect. According to Somma, “This is an employer that would have fired workers. And so while they broke the law, this policy allowed us to calm the employer’s union-busting down.”

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Labor Notes: “Union Win at Bus Factory Electrifies Georgia”