School Bus Driver Strike Ends, But Not Without Collateral Damage

Local nonprofit group cites losses in student attendance and drastically reduced work hours for employees

Published : Thursday, February 1, 2018 | 6:24 AM

School Bus Driver Strike Ends, But Not Without Collateral Damage

School buses are expected to roll this morning following the end of the two-week bus driver’s strike affecting Pasadena Unified students, leaving at least one Pasadena nonprofit serving children with developmental disabilities and their families reeling from the effects of the action by drivers of First Student, Inc.

Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Student is contracted by the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) to provide school bus services. Its drivers, members of Teamsters Local Union 572, suddenly went on strike early in the morning of Thursday, January 18, throwing some parents into a panic.

Wednesday at Brookside Park, the drivers voted to ratify the proposed collective bargaining agreement and return to work. According to one union member present for the voting, the vote was 145 to 44 in favor of approving the contract,.

“Members of the union ratified the agreement today and will return to work Thursday,” said Jay Brock, spokesperson for First Student, Inc. who added, “We look forward to getting back to doing what we do best, safely transporting school students to and from school.”

Union representative Dennis Watson said “Everybody’s happy and I can tell you that the vote count was 3-1 in favor of ratification and we have probably 80% of our people who voted, so we’re pleased.”

The strike took a serious toll on local nonprofits which serve children with special needs.

“I think that the majority of parents are nearly devastated by this bus strike,” said Communications Director Rebecca Haussling of AbilityFirst, a nonprofit serving children and adults with disabilities including Pasadena Unified students.

“The parents don’t have anywhere to bring their kids,” Haussling added. “The parents have to figure out where to send their kids, and in some cases, they can’t even go to work and make their own income because of the bus strike. It’s a real shame.”

At least one AbilityFirst parent reportedly lost their job due to difficulties associated with the strike.

Meanwhile, according to a union driver who asked not to be identified, Local 572 and First Student have resolved the application of California paid sick leave, among a number of other strike issues.

“We have some very specific language about that allows our members to approach the company to get an accounting of number of sick hours that they’ve used during the year,” the driver said.

Calling the issue more of a miscommunication from the previous manager than it was an actual bone of contention between us and the company, the union member reported that improvements have been made to the “qualifier” for drivers to earn their one-week vacation time.

The union driver reported that the company said it intends to upgrade their facilities and working conditions, with upgrades to the employee restrooms and the driver lunch rooms, as well as a renewed effort to ensure the buses are maintained at the highest possible standards.

In addition, the driver said that First Student has agreed to create, in conjunction with the Union, a joint labor management committee made up of company managers as well as bargaining unit members. The committee will meet on a monthly basis to address employee and management issues.

“I think that’s a big step in creating a better environment for everybody,” the driver added.

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