MINNEAPOLIS — More than 20 school bus drivers here walked off the job last week to protest low wages and difficult working conditions, though some did return to work on Monday.
The school bus drivers work for Monarch Bus Service, covering routes for Minneapolis Public Schools. The bus company notified the district on Thursday that the drivers planned to be no-shows on their afternoon and Friday morning routes.
Scott James, the transportation director for the district, confirmed that the 22 drivers who walked out are protesting stagnating wages, not getting enough hours and operating buses that are too cold.
Abdinur Jimale, one of the bus drivers who participated in the walkout, told MPR News that the drivers’ wages, at $16 to $17 per hour, are too low, and that other companies have raised wages to around $20 per hour. (Mike Mattingly, a spokesman for Monarch Bus Service, told School Bus Fleet that the company’s policy is not to discuss wages publicly, but that “Monarch pays competitive wages to its drivers based on tenure, experience, and other relevant factors.”)
School bus driver wages have been an ongoing issue nationwide, particularly when compared to the pay rates of other driving professions, such as transit and intercity bus drivers, and heavy-duty and tractor-trailer truck drivers.
Jimale also told MPR News that when he and the other drivers involved in the walkout tried to work with the contractor on the issues in question, they were told to leave a meeting with the company’s leadership.
James told SBF that the district communicated to parents and students that the employee dispute had occurred. He expects the disruption to last a couple of weeks as the bus company locates, hires and trains replacement drivers, but does not expect any significant impact on service.
“They have been able to cover the bulk of the routes by shifting work to other terminals,” James added.
Mattingly confirmed on Monday that all bus routes for the district are being covered with no disruption of service.
Meanwhile, several of the drivers who did not show up for work last week have since returned to work, and the remaining drivers are no longer employed with the company, Mattingly said.
“There are no ongoing demands or protests being made by drivers,” he added.
It has been reiterated to all employees at Monarch Bus Service that “management has been and remains open to meeting with individual employees to listen and respond to their concerns,” Mattingly said.