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Prince William Bus Drivers: We Deserve Respect

With some 30 fellow workers backing them, eight Prince William Education Association bus drivers last night stood in front of the school board and told them they deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.

The drivers pointed to a number of troubling instances where they have been treated unprofessionally or disrespectfully. Pedro Mendoza, a driver and U.S. veteran, told the board he and other drivers have been forbidden to speak Spanish to their co-workers, even in casual conversation.

“From time to time we have to translate for each other if someone needs clarification or a clearer explanation of what has been said,” Mendoza said. “We do this in a respectful way.” But “I am feeling discriminated against because of my heritage and my cultural background. I am a tax paying citizen in this county and I deserve respect.”

Other drivers spoke out against unequal treatment of workers by supervisors and rules and policies being applied inconsistently or arbitrarily.

And nearly every one asked for the board’s assurance that their concerns would be taken seriously, and that they would not face retaliation for speaking out.

Morale among transportation employees is low, bus driver Ric Clark told the board, and one of the primary reasons is that workers do not feel they are valued. “Our job satisfaction…comes in large part from knowing that we are valued by our bosses and our customers, not just because we show up and do what we are told, but because we have equal value and deserve equal respect…” he said.

After presenting their testimony, the bus drivers gathered outside, where PWEA President Bonnie Klakowicz (pictured above in center) told them, “you got the board’s attention.” With the issues in the transportation department clearly on the table, PWEA will be working with managers to address the problems, she said.



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