A KVCAP bus travels down Water Street in Waterville en route to pick up passengers in 2013. A group of 20 drivers recently voted to join the International Association of Machinists (IAM) Local S-9, following a similar move made by KVCAP drivers in Augusta last year. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

WATERVILLE — A group of 20 drivers from the Kennebec Valley Community Action Partners have voted to form a union because of the nonprofit group’s “refusal to respect the experience of longtime drivers.”

That’s according to the Maine AFL-CIO, which said in a statement Friday that the Waterville-based KVCAP drivers are joining the International Association of Machinists (IAM) Local S-9.

The Waterville drivers are joining the same affiliation of the union that 17 of Augusta’s KVCAP drivers joined last year.

KVCAP provides a range of services to people in Kennebec and Somerset counties, particularly for low-income clients who need help with transportation, heating assistance, child care, home ownership and other opportunities.

“Our decision to form a union was driven by the company’s refusal to respect the experience of longtime drivers when determining wages, employee favoritism and a disciplinary system that offered workers no due process,” Waterville KVCAP driver Mark Goggin said in a statement.

“After years of having no power in the workplace, we realized that the only way we could have any influence in company decisions was to form a union,” Goggin continued. “By having a collective voice, we can also help to improve conditions for our riders.”

In a statement Friday, KVCAP noted that its Augusta drivers successfully negotiated a contract that was effective April 1 this year and that Waterville drivers “recently voted to join the same Union and will be incorporated into the current contract that is in effect until December 31, 2021.”

Mark Goggin stands next to his KVCAP bus at the KVCAP office on Water Street in Waterville in 2013. Goggin cited the company’s refusal to respect the experience of longtime drivers as a reason drivers chose to unionize. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

“We are proud of our drivers and the work that they perform,” KVCAP said in the statement. “KVCAP offers all employees, including our drivers, a fair wage and benefits package that is competitive with the local market.”

Augusta KVCAP drivers ratified a contract earlier this year that included pay raises, signing bonuses, a new safety committee and more. That deal came after Augusta drivers picketed over a lack of a new contract.

Waterville members are now eligible for the same contract.

“The drivers have been woefully underpaid and undervalued,” labor representative George Edwards of IAM District Lodge 4 said in a statement. “By forming a union and standing up for their rights, they can use their collective voice to not only improve their wages and working conditions, but also to help ensure safer, a more reliable service for their riders. We hope this sends a message to other working people that they too can have power in their workplaces. We urge workers seeking to form a union to reach out to us for more information.”

Edwards said that the Skowhegan drivers are next on the list to unionize. There are also a few dispatchers who are not yet on the union, he said.

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