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School bus drivers in Seattle on strike, say it will ‘last until deal is reached’

SEATTLE -- School bus drivers at First Student in Seattle went on strike Thursday morning.

The strike by the group of 400 First Student school bus drivers impacted all yellow bus service to the Seattle School District, and "will last until a deal is reached with First Student," the Teamsters Local Union 174 said.

“This company has had every opportunity to do right by these drivers, and yet over and over again they have chosen the opposite approach,” said Teamsters Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks. “These drivers are fighting a righteous battle for things many of us in Seattle take for granted: the right to get medical care for their families, and the right to retire with dignity. This is a fight they deserve to win.”

Parents of children in the Seattle School District who ride the bus to school are encouraged to make alternate transportation arrangements, as bus service throughout the School District is likely to be impacted until the strike is resolved.

The drivers have been in ongoing negotiations with First Student over healthcare and retirement benefits since last summer. They staged a one-day strike on Nov. 29.

The Seattle School District issued this statement in response:

"The First Student bus drivers have stated they are going on a strike starting Thursday, Feb. 1. This means there will be no yellow school bus service starting Thursday and until further notice. You will need to use your family’s plan to get your student to and from school. We will remind families who will be affected by the strike by phone and email on Wednesday, Jan. 31.

"We recognize the inconvenience this will have on Seattle families. We have prepared answers to some of the questions you might have, and those are listed below" on the school district's website

Following a meeting between First Student labor negotiators and Teamsters Local 174 leadership, First Student Senior Director Chris Kemper released this statement:

“We are extremely disappointed that Teamsters Local 174 leadership refused to bring the new contract offer to our drivers for a vote.

"The deal on the table, we believe, is fair and equitable to all parties. The proposed contract contains an expanded benefits package, now including comprehensive health care coverage for all full-time drivers and their families, and all part-time employees would have comprehensive health care coverage with First Student covering 80 percent of annual premiums. The contract also includes a 401(k) retirement plan with company match, and a top wage of $24+ per hour.

"We care deeply about our drivers, and feel strongly that this deal reflects that. It’s extremely unfortunate that union leadership won’t let its members consider the deal on its merits.

"We realize that any disruption to student transportation is a hardship for families who depend on yellow bus service to get their children to and from school in a safe, dependable manner.

"As the November one-day strike demonstrated, a disruption in school bus service causes chaos for families, students, teachers, and drivers alike. To help avoid the disruption that a strike Thursday would cause, we are urging all of our drivers to let your voice be heard by calling on your union leadership to hold a vote on this offer.