Blue Bird workers in Fort Valley vote to unionize


Originally published: May 15, 2023

ATLANTA – In a move that contradicts the South’s non-union history, about 1,400 workers at Blue Bird Corp.’s Fort Valley school bus manufacturing plant have voted to join the United Steelworkers Union (USW).

“We’re proud that Blue Bird workers chose to join our union,” United Steelworkers International President Tom Conway said following Friday’s vote. “We’re ready to help them bargain a fair contract that accounts for their contributions to the company’s success.”

The recent Blue Bird union organizing effort was one of the most significant in the South, a region marked by state right-to-work laws that neither require workers to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment.

President Joe Biden issued a statement congratulating the Blue Bird workers for voting to unionize.

“The middle class built America. And unions built the middle class,” Biden said. “The workers at Blue Bird, and at companies like it all over the country, are proving the future can and will be built in America. And union workers will be a big part of that future.”

Blue Bird is an active participant in America’s move toward clean energy, manufacturing both low-emission and zero-emission school buses. The company has been approved to receive significant funding through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus program.

Thanks to Friday’s vote, Blue Bird workers will have a seat at the bargaining table, USW District 9 Director Dan Flippo said.

“For too long, corporations cynically viewed the South as a place where they could suppress wages and working conditions because they believed they could keep workers from unionizing,” he said. “Our union has a history of fighting on behalf of workers in the South and across the country. Now, as members of the USW, workers at Blue Bird have the same opportunity to make positive changes in their workplace.”

On the other hand, political and business leaders in Georgia and other states in the South as well as corporate executives overseas have long cited low union membership in the region as a key factor in corporate decisions to locate their job-creating operations in the region.