With new year comes new opportunities, hope

January 3, 2008

By Vic Baffoni
Vice President, Bus Department

As we enter the new year, we must be on the lookout for new opportunities to organize the unorganized, increase financial resources and gain political power.

We also must take advantage of new training and educational opportunities to aid our members.

The winds of unionism may have waned in recent years, but with strong leadership and dedication, and with increased resources, we can and will adjust the sails to improve our opportunities at the bargaining table, with federal regulatory agencies and lawmakers.

As we adjust to take advantage of every opportunity to better represent, serve and build our union, I will be meeting with each of our bus locals to address their concerns. I will schedule those locals with the biggest problems first and provide the attention and help they need.

One of the issues we will be watching closely is new school-bus safety standards being established by the U.S. DOT. Under the standards, scheduled to take effect within a year, school districts will have access to federal funds to equip buses with 24-inch seat backs, which is four inches higher than currently in use.

And within three years, all new smaller buses, which have an increased rollover risk, must have three-point seat belts instead of lap belts. School districts will also be encouraged to use federal funds to equip larger buses with seat belts. The new rules are available for inspection on the Internet at www.nhtsa.dot.gov.