Seattle school bus drivers authorize strike: ‘We don’t cross picket lines’

SEATTLE — There’s a labor dispute brewing between some Seattle school bus drivers and the company that now shares the road with long-time provider First Student.

Drivers for the school bus provider Zūm have only been serving the district since the start of the school year, but they’ve already taken a strike vote against the company.

During a meeting Sunday morning, 95% of Zūm’s nearly 150 drivers said they would walk off the job if they do not come to terms on a new labor agreement.

Teamsters Local 174, which represents the bus drivers, say that Zūm is dragging its feet on a new contract.

Spokesperson Jamie Fleming says it’s not just about the pay received by the drivers.

“Even if the pay rates themselves are competitive, everything else is not,” she says. “And that is what needs to be rectified with this contract.”

One of the key issues includes crossing picket lines.

“Teamsters don’t cross picket lines,” Fleming said. “We had a strike at First Student in 2018. And, if they don’t agree to that language, of course, Zūm drivers would be expected to cross any picket lines, which is something we’re not going to agree to. It’s a bit shocking that they’re holding out so hard over something like that and would potentially be willing to take a strike over that.”

The California-based Zūm company was awarded a contract by the Seattle School District last summer to provide transportation services to some of the students previously served by First Student, which continues to provide buses and drivers to the majority of the routes.

Teamsters Local 174 said in a statement that their Zūm drivers want the same pay and benefits as the First Student drivers receive – but after nearly a year of negotiating with the company, they have yet to reach an agreement.

“We at Zūm care deeply about our bus drivers,” the statement said. “We are currently in ongoing negotiations with Teamsters Local 174. We hope to reach a fair and equitable deal for both parties.”

The two sides have a series of meetings scheduled for the next few weeks.

This story was originally published by MyNorthwest.

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