A section of school bus drivers in Spring Grove earlier this month opted to break away from the union that has represented them for about four years.
But a union official questioned the validity of a petition to decertify the union. The petition is said to contain the signatures of the majority of Durham School Services drivers within the district, but Bradley Hockenberry, business agent with Teamsters Local 776, which represents the drivers, said he hasn't seen it.
"Do I think they had the numbers for the petition? I don't believe so," he said.
Because the petition hasn't been released by Durham, the company Spring Grove contracts for bus services, or by the group of workers, Hockenberry said he can't verify the signatures. He added that as far as he knew, the petition hasn't been filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
Anthony Reidel, spokesman for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which is representing drivers that circulated the petition, said the petition hasn't been filed with the board but was given to Durham.
The union had been in talks with Durham to renegotiate the drivers' contract, which is set to expire.
Decertification: Carina Noble, spokeswoman for Durham, said the company received the petition earlier this month and verified its signatures.
The company then withdrew recognition of the union and ended contract negotiations, she said.
However, unfair labor practice allegations before the National Labor Relations Board could mean the union is still active, Hockenberry said.
The allegations include perks for anti-union drivers and discrimination against union supporters, he said.
A labor relations board spokesman said he cannot discuss pending cases.
"So the company is not recognizing something that is recognized by the federal government," Hockenberry said. "For us, it's business as usual."
'Done deal': But Reidel said the decertification is final.
According to the foundation, which "believes union affiliation should be completely voluntary," one of the ways to decertify a union is to get the majority of workers to sign a petition stating they don't want union representation.
"Since a majority of the employees signed the petition and the employer withdrew recognition, it's a done deal," Reidel said.
A group of drivers attempted to decertify the union in June 2012, but the unfair labor practice allegations filed by the union blocked that effort, Reidel said.
Contract extension: In February, the union authorized a strike when contract negotiations broke down. The strike was averted when Durham and union officials reached a contract extension agreement, but the extension is slated to end Tuesday.
When asked if there were any plans to strike, Hockenberry said he can't comment.
But with the end of the extension looming, Lisa Smith, spokeswoman for Spring Grove Area School District, said the district has plans in place to provide transportation to 3,500 students who ride buses daily if a strike does happen.
"We're just waiting to see," she said.
Proposals: The district is currently shopping around for transportation services.
During a school board meeting earlier this month, administrators said they received proposals from Durham and five other companies. The board is expected to review the proposals in April.
If a new company is contracted by the district, it could recognize the current union, not recognize it, or allow drivers to hold a vote on whether to organize, Hockenberry said.
But if the union has been decertified, workers will have to wait a year to organize again.
Durham also provides services to four other districts in York County, but none of those bus lots are part of a union, Hockenberry said.
The effort to decertify the union in Spring Grove has not been pretty. It has pitted drivers against drivers, some of whom have been friends for decades, he said.
"It's an ugly situation down there," Hockenberry said.
— Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.