Among the latest stories affecting school bus worker unions are calls for higher pay, strikes,...

Among the latest stories affecting school bus worker unions are calls for higher pay, strikes, and unionization votes.

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Members of labor unions representing pupil transportation employees have made headlines in recent weeks, calling for anything from higher wages to the ability to retain collective bargaining rights.

School Bus Fleet has a roundup of the latest labor union news.

Lengthy Strike Leads to Ratified Contract for Alaska School Bus Workers

Teamsters Local 959, which represents 195 Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska, school bus drivers, attendants, and monitors, reached an agreement with Durham School Services on a new contract. The March 8 agreement followed months of negotiations and a four-week strike. This is the first contract Local 959 workers have ratified with Durham.

"Day in and day out, Mat-Su Valley bus drivers battle Alaska's weather to get students to and from school safely – and they deserve to be compensated fairly. The newly ratified contract should serve as the latest example of how hard Teamsters fight for their fellow members," Teamsters Passenger Transportation Division Director Matt Taibi said.

The new three-year contract includes increased wages that are retroactive to the beginning of the school year and will make Mat-Su Valley competitive with Anchorage, according to a press release. The contract also includes a $1,500 signing bonus, as well as guaranteed minimum hours for drivers, attendants, and monitors. Additionally, it includes a process to address safety concerns which a union spokesperson said was badly needed.

On January 31, Mat-Su school bus workers voted to authorize an unfair labor practice strike. Student safety was a top concern for drivers and the union reported that Durham neglected to address safety-related issues in their offer to Local 959. That led to an overwhelming vote to authorize a strike.

Missouri Student Transportation of America Workers Ratify First Union Contract

Drivers and monitors at Student Transportation of America (STA) represented by Teamsters Local 610 ratified their first union contract in late March 2023, according to a press release. The agreement covers 180 workers at the Ferguson-Florissant, Missouri, School District. The new members join more than 700 other bus workers represented by Local 610.

The new contract includes increased wages, a $250 ratification bonus, Teamsters 401(k) contributions, bereavement and jury duty pay, additional paid holidays, and higher annual safety bonuses for drivers with no accidents.

"With this new contract FFSD bus workers will now be some of the highest-paid private sector bus workers in Missouri," President of Local 610 Gary Dunakey said. "We are ecstatic that we were able to get higher wages, more holidays, bonuses, retirement contributions, and more in this contract. A big thanks to our members and Teamster organizers – especially Sean O'Neill and Shelley Goodman – for their stewardship on this campaign, and to our negotiating committee for securing FFSD bus workers a well-deserved contract."

Los Angeles Bus Drivers Back at Work After Strike Fails to Yield Higher Pay

School bus drivers who transport L.A. Unified School District students returned to their routes with no pay increase on March 24 following a strike. Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 99 walked out of their school district jobs to strike for three days, shuttering the nation's second-largest school system. The strike included 30,000 members of the union working as school bus drivers, teacher’s aids, food servers, janitors, and more. An additional 30,000 joined the strike in solidarity.

School Bus Fleet previously reported that union members pushed for a 30% pay hike, plus an additional $2 per hour for the lowest paid workers. Before the strike started, the district presented a 19% ongoing increase over three years and a one-time 5% bonus for those who worked in the 2020-21 school year. The union members were not satisfied and decided to strike.

Following the strike, the school district released a statement saying it was still having conversations with union leaders. The union released its own statement, saying in part, “It’s time for L.A. Schools to stop talking about reaching an “equitable agreement” and start making it happen. We are tired of living in poverty. We’ve had enough."

Kansas Union School Bus Workers Call for School Board to Honor Union Rights

Kansas Central bus workers represented by Teamsters Local 696 hand-delivered a letter to the Kaw Valley Unified School District school board at their most recent meeting urging them to allow workers to retain their collective bargaining rights.

The letter came as the school board was weighing a decision on whether to bring student transportation in-house – thus classifying workers as school district staff – or allowing them to remain private sector workers. Under the Kansas Public Employer-Employee Relations Act, the school board has the authority to allow workers to keep their collective bargaining rights in the event they are re-classified into the public sector, according to a press release.

"School bus workers play a critical role in the Kaw Valley Unified School District," Secretary-Treasurer of Local 696 Matt Hall said. "Regardless of how the school board chooses to classify workers, they must honor their collective bargaining rights. We trust that they will make the right decision."

More than 50 members of the community, students, faculty, and other workers have shown support for the workers by sending letters to the school board.

Alabama School Bus Drivers Vote to Unionize

Bus drivers with the Huntsville, Alabama, City Schools System unionized following a vote in March 2023. The drivers joined Teamsters Local 402, according to Fox 54 Huntsville. The vast majority of drivers voted in favor – 131 people – with six voting against the move.

The bus drivers are contracted through First Student, Inc., which acquired Apple Bus, Huntsville's previous contractor, in 2022.

A representative from First Student, Inc. issued a statement to Fox 54, saying it has a policy that supports employees’ right to choose whether to join a labor union. The statement went on to say, “We have no conflict with our drivers organizing. We have a strong relationship with the Teamsters, which includes a National Master Agreement.”

Local 402 will represent the drivers in negotiating a fair labor agreement with First Student.

Rhode Island Unionized Bus Drivers Reach Agreement with Contractor

Providence, Rhode Island, Public Schools bus drivers reached an agreement on a new contract with First Student, avoiding a strike in early March. First Student provides pupil transportation for a large portion of the school district.

WPRI reported that the contractor said it made a “generous” offer for a new contract with Teamsters Local 251. The union rejected a previous offer from First Student. The contractor then sent another offer, which was initially rejected, until First Student agreed to changes suggested by the union.

The new contract includes a pay increase of $37 per hour by June 2026, First Student spokesperson Frank McMahon told WPRI. The contract also doubles the 100% company-funded contribution into the Teamsters Savings and Investment Plan and increases company coverage of health care costs to 92.5%.

About the author
Christy Grimes

Christy Grimes

Senior Editor

Christy Grimes is a Senior Editor at Bobit, working on Automotive Fleet and Government Fleet publications. She has also written for School Bus Fleet.

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