In packed meeting, drivers make clear that First Student’s newest offer is not enough to avoid protracted strike
January 6, 2018
At a meeting that filled nearly every seat in the Local 174 Union auditorium, First Student school bus drivers voted by a margin of 85% to reject the most recent offer made by their employer. Now that this offer has been rejected, a protracted strike by the group of over 400 drivers is all but imminent, barring a new, better offer from First Student.
The vote took place after a spirited and emotional meeting. Once the terms of the proposal had been explained to the drivers, everyone was given the chance to ask questions and voice their opinions on the proposal. The group was extremely dissatisfied that the Company’s proposal did not include any affordable healthcare coverage for spouses or families, and that there was no pension included in the offer.
Several drivers gave emotional testimony supporting their belief that this fight is about more than just themselves – they are also fighting for the school bus drivers that come after them, and for bus drivers at First Student throughout the country.
“The time is now,” said driver Alex Benge, a shop steward at First Student’s South Park location. Her speech was interrupted by applause several times. “This company is the Wal-Mart of school transportation, and we need to say it loud and clear: we are not okay with that. We cannot wait – we need to do this now.”
Benge’s opinion was echoed by many in the room, who gave passionate speeches in support of their fellow drivers. Even the drivers who expressed tentative support for the proposal made clear that if there were a strike, they would stand shoulder to shoulder with their coworkers on the picket line to fight for a better deal.
Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks shared his incredible pride at the way the drivers had conducted themselves during the one-day strike that was held November 29. He pointed out that without their courage and sacrifice, First Student would have been unlikely to put forth any better proposals than what had already been rejected.
When the results of the vote were announced, a cheer went up from the group. They made clear that they were ready and willing to fight for more.
“First Student brought something new to the table, but it was not enough,” Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks said about the vote. “These drivers have already been to war. They know that you only get what you are willing to fight for – and they are willing to fight for a lot more than this latest proposal. They made that very clear today.”
Founded in 1909, Teamsters Local 174 represents 7,200 working men and women in the Seattle area. “Like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TeamstersLocal174.