Teamsters Local 174 authorized a strike last week after negotiations with First Student, a contractor that provides bus services to the school district, broke down. A strike could leave students with limited yellow-bus service, or none at all.
The Seattle School District on Tuesday warned of a possible strike by school- bus drivers that could leave students with limited yellow-bus service, or none at all.
Last week, Teamsters Local 174 authorized a strike, but the 400 union drivers have not stopped work yet.
That could change at any time, said Teamsters 174 business agent Abraham Taylor. “My boss (secretary-treasurer Rick Hicks) calls a strike when he calls it. The members gave him an authorization. He might call it tonight. He might call it later,” Taylor said.
The union is angling for more affordable health benefits and a stronger retirement plan for the drivers, who are employed by First Student, a contractor that provides bus services to the district.
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Taylor said First Student promised the drivers a negotiation over the benefits during labor discussions last year.
“We were willing to punt last year … to talk about health care. It’s not fair now that they’re forcing us into this jam,” Taylor said.
Taylor said many of the bus drivers cannot afford the insurance offered by First Student and cannot afford to contribute toward their retirement.
Taylor said as long as talks continue with First Student, he doesn’t expect the union to call for a strike.
“As long as there is possibility for fruitful negotiations, I would assume he’s not going to pull the trigger,” Taylor said, referring to Hicks. But patience is wearing thin for the bus drivers, he said, and the company has only been willing to “rearrange deck chairs,” but not contribute more money to drivers.
First Student is in the first year of a three-year contract with the Seattle School District worth at least $27 million a year. Entry-level bus drivers earn $18 an hour, according to school-board documents.
The strike was authorized Thursday, and bus drivers Friday made picket signs at their local union office.
On its website, the Seattle School District said teachers, students and parents should monitor for developments.