First Student Teamsters Speak Before the Seattle School Board

October 18, 2017

It was an electrifying evening at the Seattle School Board meeting, as dozens of First Student drivers attended the meeting wearing their reflective vests and carrying handmade signs. The signs, along with the energetic presence of the drivers themselves, made it clear to the Seattle School Board that this labor dispute does not stop at First Student. “The dispute has reached a boiling point, and this group is on the brink of a strike that would create havoc for Seattle families,” said Teamsters Local 174 Senior Business Agent Abraham Taylor in a speech before the Board, which he delivered while flanked on all sides by the Teamsters he represents. “None of us want that to happen, and so we are asking for your help in resolving this situation as quickly as possible.”

Taylor went on to point out that First Student has failed to negotiate in good faith with the drivers over health insurance and retirement benefits, and that new Unfair Labor Practice charges were filed with the National Labor Relations Board earlier today. “[The School Board members] can look at these drivers and say ‘I’m not your employer, I can’t do anything about this’ – but that is an abdication of responsibility that we will not accept,” he said.

The battle for health insurance is not just a matter of convenience — for some, it is a matter of life and death. One driver carried a sign alerting the School Board to a heartbreaking situation: at the age of 26, after aging out of her father’s health insurance, she has been diagnosed with cancer. Without health insurance, there is nothing she can do.

“You CAN do something about this, and you need to,” Taylor concluded in his speech to the Board.

Here is the full text of Taylor’s speech:

“I am here tonight to talk to you about the labor dispute between Teamsters Local 174 and First Student, your subcontractor for student transportation. The dispute has reached a boiling point, and this group is on the brink of a strike that would create havoc for Seattle families.

None of us want that to happen, and so we are asking for your help in resolving this situation as quickly as possible.

First Student has not bargained in good faith with these drivers. They made promises last year that once they were able to get a new contract with the Seattle School District, they would be able to address our members’ very real concerns about affordable healthcare and retirement.

Now that a year has passed and First Student was able to get contracts settled with the drivers and with the School District, they came back to the bargaining table without a single penny more than what they have been offering up until now. They had a year, and they came up with nothing.

Healthcare is not affordable for these drivers. Out of over 400 of them, only 26 signed up for the plan they were offered, and the new plans that First Student brought to the bargaining table were even worse. To be clear, the vast majority of the people that transport our most precious cargo – our children – do not have quality affordable healthcare.

 First Student has committed multiple violations of the National Labor Relations Act while attempting to bargain this contract. We have filed several charges with the National Labor Relations Board, and even just today a new charge was filed because First Student has been attempting to intimidate our members – an illegal act under the law.

You, the board members, have a responsibility in this situation. This is your contractor, that you hired, that is treating its unionized workforce this way. And you can look at these drivers and say ‘I’m not your employer, I can’t do anything about this’ – but that is an abdication of responsibility that we will not accept. You CAN do something about this, and you need to. Thank you for your time.”

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.