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This Blue Bird Union Victory Could Transform the South

We dug into how workers won, and what it will take to turn their victory into a wave

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Workers in Georgia won one of the most improbable union victories in a generation. They unionized Blue Bird—the country’s largest electric school bus maker—in the anti-union South.

Their victory was a long time coming. Workers at Blue Bird had attempted to unionize many times, most recently in 2001. They faced illegal retaliation from the company; workers told us that Blue Bird fired people affiliated with the union drive.

In order to finally win a union, workers needed to overcome the culture of fear the company created. Organizers set out to talk to every Blue Bird employee at the facility.

One major argument for the union: thanks to the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill, Blue Bird was flush with cash. The company announced that it expected to make over $1 billion in the next five years. Workers wanted to see their fair share.

Nearly 700 people voted for the union. Only 435 voted against it.

Blue Bird workers’ victory is huge. Nationwide, 25 million kids ride about 500,000 school buses to school every day. Nearly half of those buses are made by workers are made by workers at Blue Bird.

And it’s a big win in Georgia, where only 4% of workers are union members.

Blue Bird’s victory could start a ripple effect across the South. A few hours from Blue Bird, Hyundai and Rivian are building billion dollar EV factories — the two largest government subsidized industrial projects in Georgia history. They’re non-union facilities, for now.

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