Bus Drivers Strike Solidarity

Social Equity Educators stands in solidarity with the 400 plus Seattle Public School bus drivers, members of Teamsters Local 174, who will be striking for one day against First Student on Wednesday November 29.

We encourage all our fellow union members in the Seattle Education Association, the other unionized workers in Seattle Public Schools, and workers throughout the city to stand shoulder to shoulder with them as well.

Especially in the new era of Trump in the White House, it’s imperative that the entire labor movement, whether union or non-union, live by the old Industrial Workers of the World slogan that “an injury to one is an injury to all”.

What can you do?

We encourage everyone who can to show their solidarity by walking the picket line. Pickets will be up between 5am-5pm, possibly later. According to the Teamsters Local 174 website, there are two locations where they will be picketing:

First Student – South Park Bus Lot:
8249 5th Ave S.
Seattle, WA 98108

First Student – Lake City Bus Lot:
13525 Lake City Way NE
Seattle, WA 98125

Social Equity Educators (SEE) will be encouraging its members to attend whichever picket line is more convenient.

For sure, SEE members will start gathering at the South Park location between 4-4:30pm. Join us there!

In addition, we encourage anyone who can to donate money to the Teamsters 174 strike fund. Bring money to the picket line. If you can make it to a picket, please consider bringing warm drinks, donuts or some other nourishment to show your solidarity.

The Seattle Education Association union leadership is encouraging all its members to wear red to school.

Here’s some background information on why the strike is happening:

According to the Teamsters Local 174 website:

“The Unfair Labor Practice strike will protest First Student’s unilateral change and implementation of an inferior medical plan for its employees–an illegal action under the National Labor Relations Act, as healthcare is the subject of negotiations and cannot be changed without bargaining with the employees’ Union.”

As part of a contract the two sides finalized last year, they agreed to delay a discussion of health care and retirement benefits for one year. They began new negotiations back in July.

A union spokesperson highlighted that only 26 of the 400 plus drivers can afford health care and none of the drivers have an adequate retirement plan.

The Seattle Times reports that entry level drivers earn $18 an hour and that drivers who work less than 30 hours a week don’t receive any health care benefits.

Depending on the source, between 12,000-20,000 students in Seattle Public Schools out of the 50,000 plus will be affected by the strike.

In a letter to the company, Pegi McEvoy, assistant superintendent for operations at SPS, argued:

“Should daily bus service be disrupted, the lives and education of many students will be significantly and adversely impacted. In addition to this disruption, Seattle Public Schools could also face substantial costs to address your failure to provide the contractually obligated service.”

SPS intends to seek damages of $1.2 million per day of the strike from First Student. The district and the company are in year one of a three-year contract worth $27 million a year.

While the district’s words seem harsh, we feel it’s important to not let the district off the hook in this struggle. According to The Seattle Times:

“Last year, Seattle School Board members emphasized the importance of retaining drivers when they approved the First Student contract, worth at least $27 million a year. They requested data to see how much it would cost for the district to offer health-care benefits to drivers who work 20-29 hours per week. The district decided against providing those benefits, which would have cost $1.7 million annually.”

So like any good student, let’s do the math. The district agreed to pay First Student over $81 million over the next three years, but it couldn’t afford the extra $5.1 million during that time for the health care benefits our fellow union members more than deserve.

The other option would be for First Student to take that extra $5.1 million out of its profit. The company still would have been left with $76 million for the next three years.

Either way, we feel the money is clearly there whether it comes out of the pocket of the SPS or by cutting into the profits of First Student.

Social Equality Educators calls on both SPS and First Student to immediately meet the demands of the school bus drivers!

For more information, check out the following Teamsters 174 links:

Teamsters Local 174 to Call One-Day Unfair Labor Practice Strike Tomorrow at First Student

https://www.facebook.com/TeamstersLocal174

Or call or text Social Equity Educators at 206-550-1609 to learn about how educators and supporters of public schools can help out.

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