The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced Friday that it was filing claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the National Labor Relations Board against two Minnesota school bus companies on behalf of 15 school bus drivers.
According to the drivers, Monarch Bus Services and Minneapolis & Suburban Bus Company fired them back in January after they formed a group called the United Community of Drivers to address work conditions and discrimination issues. They claim that the companies refused to listen to their concerns and threatened to call the police if they did not leave the property.
The drivers, who are of Somali origin, claim that the buses they were assigned to drive had no heat and were in disrepair, while drivers of other ethnic groups were given the newer buses with functioning heating systems. They also claim that the companies arbitrarily reduced their hours and did not pay them for some of the time worked.
“Clearly, that is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act, which allows groups of employees to form groups to talk to employers about working conditions,” said Ellen Longfellow, the attorney representing the group of drivers during a press conference.
Longfellow continued, stating that they have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, and in the last two weeks, claims were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Mahmud Kanyare, the leader of the group, reported that the bus companies treated them unfairly, ignoring the group's concerns, which prompted the recent actions.
"The school children suffered because they had to ride in cold buses during a Minnesota winter," said Kanyare.
However, the bus companies dispute the accounts.
"We are safe, responsible transporters of Minneapolis schoolchildren and good, responsible, sympathetic employers," the companies said in a statement to The Star Tribune. "Our two companies take great pride in our multicultural workforces and the considerable efforts we make to understand and accommodate our many Somali employees."