PLATTSBURGH — An effort to decertify a local bus-driver union has failed.Drivers of the Clinton County Public Transportation system recently voted 23-21 to keep their union."It was close, but we won, and that's what matters," union representative Joe Gittens said.The union was formed in November 2005, when drivers voted to become Local 294 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.They have been negotiating with First Transit, the company hired by the county to run the bus system, for a contract, but have not made progress.Gittens said the drivers have been seeking better pay and benefits, including paid time off.Drivers threatened to strike last December, but backed off in hopes of going back to the negotiating table.The angst caused by the negotiations led to the union decertification vote.The drivers are split between those who drive for the county's public-transit system and those who drive school buses."The school-bus drivers have never been happy since this started," Gittens said."The vote (to decertify) was like a divided Congress; it went straight along party lines."An effort to separate the drivers into their own unions was denied by the National Labor Relations Board."If we do get a satisfactory contract, hopefully they (school-bus drivers) will get behind us," Gittens said.First Transit Manager Terri Blake said the company is still weighing the situation."We will probably go back to the table, but I don't know when."Gittens vowed success for the union this time."One way or another, we will get something done."
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