SEATTLE, Oct. 13, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Negotiations between Teamsters Local 174 and Seattle School District bus contractor First Student broke down yesterday. The negotiations over healthcare and retirement – which affect over 400 school bus drivers in Seattle – began in June, but First Student has continued to refuse to bargain in good faith. First Student has refused to provide requested information, and has failed to send a representative with the authority to make decisions. These, along with the refusal to bargain in good faith, are all Unfair Labor Practices under the National Labor Relations Act.
The group of First Student drivers, who have been members of Teamsters Local 174 since 2013, ratified a contract last year that guaranteed their wages and language to protect their rights on the job. However, retirement and healthcare issues were not settled at that time – instead, both sides agreed to reopen these issues in 2017. A commitment to ask the Seattle School District for sufficient funding to provide medical and retirement was made, but First Student did not live up to their commitment and the Seattle School District refused to step up to the plate.
Since reopening the contract for healthcare and retirement, negotiations have gone nowhere. “The medical plan that the drivers have been offered up to this point provided decent coverage, but it was not even remotely affordable to them. Out of over 400 drivers, only 26 even signed up for the plan,” said Local 174 Director of Negotiations Patty Warren. “The plan options the Company brought to the table this time around were even worse: fixed benefit plans that would allow our members to go to the doctor and find out they were sick, but then be unable to afford to do anything about it. These plans would have left people on the hook for countless thousands of dollars in bills for even a brief hospital stay. We couldn’t possibly agree to that. Our members deserve better.”
The main obstacle preventing a contract from being reached appears to be the privatized school bus business model itself. In areas where school bus drivers are employed directly by the School District, they are compensated appropriately as public employees often are, with good healthcare and retirement security. However, the Seattle School District has outsourced its school bus services to First Student in an attempt to save money, and