The union and First Student, which is in its first year of a three-year contract with Seattle Public Schools, both said they hope the meeting brings them closer to a resolution. The bus drivers remain on strike.
Leaders of the union representing Seattle’s 400 school-bus drivers and their employer, First Student, will return to the negotiating table Thursday for the first time since the union went on strike last week.
The two sides will be meeting with a federal mediator.
Thursday marks one week that 12,000 Seattle students have been left without consistent yellow-bus service. Members of Teamsters Local 174 declared a strike starting last Thursday after contract negotiations between the union and First Student failed earlier that week.
Those negotiations had remained at a standstill, as neither side reached out to the other to come back to the table, though both sides said they were ready and willing to take the call from the other.
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The union and First Student, which is in its first year of a three-year contract with Seattle Public Schools, both said Wednesday they hope the meeting brings them closer to a resolution.
“We remain hopeful that the union will take a closer look at our offer tomorrow and end the strike that is causing so much hardship for Seattle Public Schools families and our drivers,” First Student said in a statement.
Bus drivers picketing outside First Student’s two bus lots were joined Wednesday by Seattle teachers-union members, who staged a walkout at their buildings after the school day ended. The union called the support from the Seattle Education Association a “burst of momentum.”
While the majority of the drivers have picketed each day, at least 50 have showed up for their bus routes. First Student offered additional pay, guaranteed hours and lunch for drivers who cross the picket line.
Drivers were able to cover nearly one-third of the daily bus routes, First Student said. Bus routes for special-education students and students in low-income schools have been given priority. Families of special-education students who choose to drive to school will be reimbursed for mileage, the district said.
The district hasn’t released absence numbers for each day, but on the first day of the strike, 180 more students than usual missed school. Students who miss school because of the strike, under state law, will be given an unexcused absence.
Union members say they want more affordable health care and a better retirement plan, and that the bus company’s most recent proposal wasn’t sufficient. First Student says it offered a package that includes year-round comprehensive health care, with the company paying 80 percent of health-insurance premiums.