School Bus Drivers Vote To Unionize With Teamsters

By: Jared Cerullo Email
By: Jared Cerullo Email

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Friday, October 22, 2010

School bus drivers in Wichita are unhappy that they receive no vacation time and no sick leave, among other things. They complain of management not respecting them and only two paid holidays per year.

"I think people need more respect," said First Student driver Gene Fleming. "I think we need people in management that understand what goes on out here and I don't think they do."

First Student currently employs 795 bus drivers in Wichita. USD 259 contracted with First Student at the beginning of the year after ending it's long-standing relationship with Durham School Services.

Currently, drivers have no retirement plan options or health insurance benefits. Organizing with the Teamsters Union will give them the opportunity to bargain with the company for contracts that might include those types of things.

Hannah Rossow, another First Student driver, said she sees a lot of problems with the way things are right now.

"Pay, health insurance, the fact that we don't have a permanent lot," Rossow said. "We're going to be out in the cold when winter comes with just a couple trailers for shelter. Some of these buses, they have us take them out when we know there might be an issue with them."

Wichita's school bus drivers are responsible for taking thousands of children to and from school each and every day. They don't take their jobs lightly.

"Can you think of a more important job than to take care of those kids?" Fleming asked? "I can't."

415 drivers voted yes to unionize, while just 53 voted no. Teamsters Union representatives say the National Labor Relations Board has 10 days to certify the vote. After that, the Teamsters will begin a bargaining process that will eventually lead to a contract to vote on for Wichita's school bus drivers. If the contract is voted down, they would then be able to strike.

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