Seattle Public Schools bracing for another possible bus driver strike
SEATTLE – The Seattle Public School district is bracing for a second bus driver strike after the driver’s union rejected the latest contract proposal from First Student, the district’s bus contractor.
Dozens of bus drivers walked out for a one-day strike in late November, calling for better health and retirement benefits.
Last Saturday, the union voted against the proposal that committed to pay up to 80 percent of the cost for comprehensive health benefits.
“If First Student doesn’t come back with something better than they offered before, I don’t see how we avoid a longer strike,” said Jamie Fleming, spokesperson for Teamsters Local 174.
Fleming said a simple majority is needed to approve a new contract. On Saturday, 85 percent of drivers rejected the recent offer.
First Student told KOMO News that they met with the bus drivers Thursday afternoon to break down the latest proposal.
“When you look at the total compensation package that we provide our drivers, we believe that it is more fair and very competitive in this industry,” said Kim Mingo, First Student Senior Director.
The current offer also includes a 401K retirement plan.
But, the union is demanding improved health benefits for family members and a penchant plan.
“You could practically hear the air, the air going out of everybody’s balloons, because we knew these people weren’t going to vote for a proposal that doesn’t cover their families and their children,” said Fleming.
Meanwhile, Seattle teachers could soon join the union’s efforts.
The Seattle Educators Association told KOMO News on Thursday teachers are currently voting whether to schedule a walk-out in support of the bus drivers.
“We had bus drivers walk on the strike line with us, so we’re like, ‘Yes, absolutely, they are part of the educational system. We need to support them,” said SEA president, Phyllis Campano.
Campano said they will count the votes on Saturday.
Should the teachers vote for a demonstration, the teachers union will plan a walk-out on a Wednesday in coordination with Local Teamsters 174.
The walk-out will be scheduled after students have been dismissed from school during a planning period.
Seattle Public Schools is telling parents to have travel plans ready should a strike occur.
Fleming said in the event of another strike, bus drivers would once again picket at the South Park and Lake City Way lots.