Friday afternoon, IPS school bus drivers hindered thousands of students from arriving at home at their normally expected time. Instead of performing the job that they agreed to perform, approximately eighty bus drivers employed with the State of Indiana contractor, Durham School Services, participated in a fragmented, but labor union style protest. Not all of the employed bus drivers participated which left them picking up the slack created by the courageous but foolish protesting drivers.
The discontenting issue is over unemployment wages during the driver’s summer down time and wage shortages. While both matters carry justifiable concerns, I am hesitant, however, to stand behind willful employment misconduct; the type of misconduct that leaves a third party dependent on services, lacking.
Not only were kids left remaining at their schools for hours past their normal dismissal, parents were caught off guard and forced to scurrying to modify their schedules to arrange their child’s pick up or some other arrangement due to their strategic, last minute notice. This end of the day tactic was well thought out.
The IPS drivers went about their normal bus routes in the morning; revealing no hint to their afternoon protest plans. Then with no announcement, the protesting drivers simply did not show up for work. Their point was unmistakably clear and jolting; “we can devise, disrupt and distress.” This is an employer’s nightmare. And IPS is feeling the heat as it stands. Regardless of what this morning (Monday) brings, I want to address a few of the concerns I have with organized labor union style strategies and tactics.
First, employment issues are often easily handled; at least if both sides are fair. Most problems stem from bad management and deficient personalities on the administrative side; however, on the worker end, over expectations, overestimation of worth, and personality clashes are as prevalent. One does not exist without the other, and neither is fully culpable any more than the other under most circumstances. However, both sides tend to be equally to blame. Yet, both employers and employees self-servingly frame their grievance as the primary focus of justified outrage. It is rarely as simple as it is presented.
Since only the labor side seems to be dissatisfied at this time, I will address only their actions.
When a worker is hired to do a job, both the employer and employee enter into morally (and legally) binding contract. That contract lays out the terms of agreement and both parties have an obligation to honor their end of the working conditions. When these school bus drivers were hired they understood what the terms of their agreement were as did Durham and the State of Indiana. I’ll even wager they were happy to have been hired. They did choose that job over other form of work. Even if it was the only form of employment they could latch onto at the time, it was accepted over the other real or potential offers. Their decision to accept the conditions of employment were binding and required dutiful compliance.
Did Durham School Services or the State of Indiana fail to fulfill their obligations? Perhaps they did, at least as far as the unpunctual wage payments are concerned; and this only if the employees did not agree to a temporary alteration of the terms of wage defrayment. I doubt either side contemplated their conflict to such a depth. This explains why the bus drivers walked off the job and left management puzzled and scrambling to adjust.
Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. Employees indeed must have a method for handling poor treatment by an employer. But not fulfilling one’s obligations as an employee is not an honorable way to object. There are legitimate methods for dealing with labor complaints; even some that are very adversarial. But the job action applied in this case is not a good one. It will not win over public support nor advance their efforts.
The last word I was aware of is that the IPS bus drivers suggested that while they are not on strike, calling off sick was a workable alternative. That is great, if they are sick. Otherwise, they need to be back on the job, performing to the best of their skilled ability and find an alternative dispute resolution¹ that does not take away from the tax payer’s expectations.
I, however, would fire all eighty employees and congratulate them on their fortitude while encouraging them to reapply for the job.
¹There are many effective methods of persuasion that can be used. Maybe I will discuss protest methods soon that can be applied to all sorts of issues.