Bringing UAW-built electric buses to our schools

When electric bus manufacturers agree to a majority sign up process with the UAW, it sends an important message to the public as well as to auto and other workers that the transition to a green economy can create quality, union manufacturing jobs. It also makes a clear case for why investing public monies to support the shift to electric makes sense for the American people.

The UAW is proud to join students, parents and teachers, as well as our allies in the racial justice and environmental movement to call on school districts and elected leaders to electrify our nation’s school bus fleet with electric buses built by UAW members.

Together, we can fight climate change while addressing the impact of pollutants on communities of color,[1] protecting students, drivers and community health, and creating and growing quality union manufacturing jobs that support our families and communities.

Here are 3 ways to help ensure the transition to electric school buses is a win for the planet while supporting racial and worker justice.

1. Expand the number of school districts using union-built, electric school buses

Together, with policy makers, students, parents, drivers, and the environmental and racial justice movement, we can get more school districts to make the change.

2. Elected leaders should buy electric school buses made responsibly in the U.S. by union-represented school bus manufacturers.

Schools, cities and states can directly contract with union firms for their school buses (preferred) or include language in RFIs and RFPs that include mandates on job quality and workers’ rights as criteria for procurement decisions.

3. Directly tell non-union electric bus manufacturers that you support a fair process for workers to decide on unionization and their right to collectively bargain.

Corporations can agree to a lawful and non-conflictual majority sign up/neutrality process to allow workers to freely decide on unionizing.

Currently, there are about 500,000 school buses on the road that generate more than 5 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.[2] Pollutants emitted from school bus tail pipes and from bus idling in neighborhoods disproportionately impact low-income students,[3],[4],[5] and communities of color are exposed to higher levels of particulate matter and air pollution from vehicles.[6] Numerous studies have linked healthy schools with greater educational outcomes for students.[7]

The Biden Administration, as well as states, cities and school districts are providing billions of dollars in public monies to subsidize the transition to electric school buses. This is a unique opportunity to demonstrate how greening the economy can contribute to the growth of unionized jobs in manufacturing.

The UAW represents workers at two of the largest bus manufacturers in the nation:  Thomas Built in North Carolina and IC Bus in Oklahoma. Through years of collective bargaining at both firms, over 1,000 UAW members have secured family-supporting wages and benefits that contribute to their economic well-being that of the surrounding communities, as well as the right to address workplace issues like health and safety, discrimination, and harassment.

As a result of President Biden’s infrastructure bill, Thomas Built and IC Bus plan on significantly increasing their hiring to meet the demand for electric school buses.[8] Thomas Built Buses, for example, will supply hundreds of electric school buses to Montgomery County, MD; “the largest single deployment of electric school buses in North America.”[9]