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Workers at Fort Valley’s Blue Bird Corporation vote to join United Steelworkers union

An aerial view of the schools buses at the Blue Bird manufacturing facility in Forty Valley.

A solid majority of workers at school bus manufacturer Blue Bird Corporation in Fort Valley voted to unionize under the United Steelworkers union.

The vote, which took place over two days Thursday and Friday, was 697 in favor and 435 against, according to Jess Camm, a USW spokesperson. In all, 1,132 votes were cast to unionize.

April 3, about 1,400 workers at the school bus manufacturing facility filed for union election with the National Labor Relations Board.

Blue Bird Corporation has seven days to contest the vote. A spokesperson for Blue Bird Corporation was not immediately reached for comment late Friday afternoon.

“We’re proud that Blue Bird workers chose to join our union and we’re ready to help them bargain a fair contract that accounts for their contributions to the company’s success,” Tom Conway, USW international president, said in a USW news release.

Charges of illegal union busting by Blue Bird Corporation were filed April 26 by the USW. No findings have been released yet from the NLRB, according to Camm. The NLRB automatically investigates such charges.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of wage and salary workers who were members of unions was 10.1% in 2022. That’s down slightly from 10.3% in 2021. The union membership rate of public-sector workers, which was 33.1%, continued to be more than five times higher than the rate of private-sector workers, which was 6%, according to the bureau.

Blue Bird is Peach County’s largest employer. It’s been in business since 1927.

The USW represents 850,000 workers employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, as well as workers in health care, public sector, higher education, tech and service occupations.