MILTON — Teamster bus drivers and monitors at Durham School Services in Santa Rosa County have voted 85-1 in favor of their first agreement with the company.

The agreement contains an average wage increase of 20 percent for drivers, adds four paid holidays by the third year of the contract and a ratification bonus and commits the company to 75 percent coverage for members and their families’ health care costs.

The contract will take effect immediately and expires on July 31, 2019.

The agreement reached Oct.8 follows the workers’ decision to form a union with the Teamsters in February 2013.

For more than three years, Durham did not recognize results of a secret ballot election conducted and certified by the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency charged with overseeing US labor laws.

Durham fought the certification but lost every appeal with the agency. The NLRB sued the company for violating federal labor law and, in June, Durham recognized the workers’ choice to form a union, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled in favor of the NLRB. The court ordered Durham to recognize the union election results and bargain with the workers.

“This is truly a remarkable day but it’s unfortunate it took us more than three years and a ruling from the second highest court in the U.S. to get here,” said Jim Gookins, secretary-treasurer of Local 991 in Mobile, Ala. “I credit the resolve of school bus drivers and monitors for Santa Rosa who stood together through all the appeals to make sure their voices would be heard.

“It is encouraging to know that when Durham’s corporate management decided to comply with the law that we were readily able to negotiate a fair agreement in a short period of time. That’s how the process should work and shows what can be accomplished when both parties work together toward a common goal.”

“This contract means a major improvement in quality of life for me and my family,” said Kim McLaughlin, a nine-year driver at Durham and a bus driver for more than 20 years. “After three years of fighting Durham to respect our right to a union, we finally have our rights protected by a legally binding union contract and a due process procedure so the company cannot arbitrarily discriminate against us. I am proud to be a Durham driver with Teamster power on my side.”

“It is a major step up for these workers,” Gookins said. “I want to thank all of our negotiating committee members, all of the Teamster members and staff that assisted supported the Santa Rosa workers fight for a fair and just contract.”