Zum, the company contracted to operate school buses for the Howard County Public School System, said Tuesday evening that drivers have chosen to continue to work without union representation.
“Today, Zum’s drivers and attendants elected to work directly with Zum,” a company spokesperson said. “We are grateful to our drivers and attendants, who are at the heart of what we do. We respect their choice and will continue to ensure that they experience industry-leading pay, benefits, work culture and career growth. We are excited to partner with them to provide safe, reliable transportation for the families of Howard County. We look forward to the certification of this result.”
Final certification could take two weeks or more said Ray Lee, a union organizer. At issue are 41 ballots that are currently being challenged and are not yet part of the total count. However, it is “highly unlikely” all those ballots will be included in the final count, and just as unlikely they will change the outcome of the vote. Lee said the move to unionize came up 32 votes short, meaning that virtually all of the 41 contested ballots would have to be counted in favor of unionization to alter the majority.
A Zum spokesperson told WJZ last week the company was not in favor of its drivers joining a union.
“We value the open lines of communication that we have with our drivers,” the company told WJZ. “If there is a union, that would change, and we do not think that is in our drivers’ or company’s best interest,” the spokesperson said. “We believe that once all the facts are known, our drivers will decide that a union is not necessary.”
The Howard County school district was a point of pride for Zum, which proudly announced in October that it hired 251 drivers in five months, claiming it had turned a longstanding driver deficit into a surplus.
“Zum has transformed Howard County’s chronic bus driver shortage into a surplus, which will bring future peace of mind to families and schools,” Zum’s founder and CEO Ritu Narayan wrote in a press release Oct. 17. “Both our new hires and our incredible existing team of dedicated drivers have been pivotal in ensuring the safe and reliable transportation of students.”
The school bus system in Howard County got off to a rough start at the beginning of the school year in August. Some students waited more than 30 minutes for buses and some parents reported their children arriving home an hour beyond what was scheduled.
The Howard County Public School System relies fully on private companies to operate its student transportation services. This year, it began a $27 million contract with Zum, a company that infuses modern tech into what some see as an antiquated industry, decking its buses out with heightened safety features and GPS tracking based on its own navigation technology.