December 13, 2017
Two weeks ago, over 400 school bus drivers at First Student in Seattle walked off the job in a one-day Unfair Labor Practice strike. The strike, which halted all yellow bus service for the Seattle School District on November 29, was in protest of First Student’s unilateral implementation of an inferior health care plan without bargaining said plan with the Union.
Picket lines in the South Park and Lake City neighborhoods went up before 5:00AM. The overwhelming majority of drivers held firm on the picket line to show their Employer they were serious and they would not allow First Student to bully them into accepting healthcare plans that are unaffordable and do not provide the coverage they need. As of now, fewer than 7% of First Student drivers in Seattle are covered under the Company’s healthcare plan – a plan with such poor coverage that at least one driver had to declare bankruptcy after facing medical expenses, even though he was insured under the plan. The rest of the drivers go without healthcare.
Both picket lines received an outpouring of support from parents and teachers within the Seattle School District. The South Park picket line also received support from Seattle City Councilwoman Teresa Mosqueda and King County Councilman Joe McDermott.
After nearly 12 hours standing in the cold, the picket lines were eventually taken down and the drivers returned home to prepare for a regular work day the next day. Meanwhile, First Student management reached out to Teamsters Local 174 through the Federal Mediator, finally ready to return to the bargaining table to have a frank conversation about healthcare and retirement for the school bus drivers. A meeting was set up for the next day.
Unfortunately, that meeting did not produce a deal. “First Student continued to put forth the same lousy proposals as before, with only the tiniest bit of extra money added in,” said Local 174 Director of Negotiations Patty Warren. “They are still trying to put a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. They brought a slightly larger Band-Aid, but it was nowhere close to being enough cover our members. We are still very far apart.”
This means that the probability of a longer strike remains imminent. “At this point, we are busy lining up coalitions, building community support, and setting up meetings as we prepare for a long-term labor dispute,” Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks said. “First Student and the Seattle community saw what a school bus strike looks like, but apparently First Student still feels that saving money is more important than the health and welfare of its employees and the education of Seattle children. We are disappointed with their behavior at the bargaining table, and we hope that they come to their senses before another strike has to be called that will last for the duration.”
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.
More photos from the First Student strike: