• Agreement reached with Seattle school bus drivers

    By: KIRO 7 News Staff , Ranji Sinha , David Solano , Patranya Bhoolsuwan

    Updated:

    An agreement has been reached with Seattle school bus drivers, ending their days-long strike.

    Seattle Public Schools officials said Friday that First Student and Teamsters Local 174 leadership came to terms on a fully-recommended tentative agreement. 

    "The vote will take place tomorrow, Saturday, February 10 at 10:00 a.m.," the statement from SPS officials reads. "Upon ratification, yellow bus service will resume on Monday."

    After the vote Saturday, the strike had officially ended.

    A last-ditch effort failed and Seattle school bus drivers walked off the job last week, which is the same thing they did two months ago. For the second time this school year, a school bus driver strike in Seattle forced an estimated 12,000 students to find another way to get to school.

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    "We have been notifying families for months now -- since mid-October, actually -- to think about how would you get your kids to school if the school bus service you rely on doesn't exist anymore or goes away for a short time," said Kim Schamnke, a spokesperson for Seattle Public Schools.

    There was a one-day strike in November 2017.

    First day of bus driver strike

    Picketers protested outside the bus yard in north and south Seattle on the first day of the strike.

    KIRO 7 saw a number of drivers pulling out of the lots in their buses, choosing to cross the picket line.

    The union called the action "unfortunate."

    “Some people are putting priority on themselves over the greater group,” said Jamie Fleming with Teamster Local 174.

    School staff were handing out notes to parents reminding them that school is open during the strike and it would be considered “unexcused” absences if kids couldn't make it to class.

    School bus driver strike enters Day 6

    Negotiations took place Thursday, Feb. 8, to try to end the Seattle school bus strike as it entered its sixth day.

    And this time, they involved a federal mediator. 

    The spokesperson for Teamsters Local 174, Jamie Fleming, told KIRO 7 that it would be a late night at the negotiating table.

    As the Seattle school bus strike rolls into its sixth day, the drivers, who are represented by the Teamsters union, are asking for better health care and retirements benefits.

    Parents have been adjusting their schedules for a week now in order to drop off and pick up kids from school.

    "I've seen parents at our school do lots of really collaborative things,” Krista Hanson, a concerned parent, said. “And it is hard, but it's a sacrifice that we're willing to make to support the drivers." 

    "I can see [a situation where] tomorrow, you might have to ask a friend [to drop and pick up the kids from school again] – or another family member has work or probably lives nearby – but then [that person] has to take time off of work – probably about 15 minutes – to leave work and then drop them off at home and then get back to work,” said Deion Inthoulay, who's concerned about the bus strike.

    Some drivers have been crossing picket lines which has allowed the company, First Student, to have bus service for some routes. 

    "Now, the fact is if First Student can afford to offer this additional economic enticement to drivers to cross the picket line, why can't they offer that at the bargaining table [for the Seattle school bus drivers trying to get better health care coverage]?" Jonathan Rosenblum, a concerned parent, said.

    The Seattle Education Association told KIRO 7 they have a meeting on Monday, Feb. 12 to consider whether teachers should stage another walkout in support of the drivers. 

    Why the bus drivers are striking

    This time around, the school bus drivers are going on strike because they're looking for more affordable health benefits and a stronger retirement plan. 

    "I think the company is offering 80 percent medical and a 401(k)," said George Frauenberg, a Seattle school bus driver. “That is a really good deal. But I think people picketing need to know what they're picketing for. The last time I spoke with people they didn't even know." 

    "We need more than what we're getting,” said Alex Bergstrom, another school bus driver. “We need to know that after we work for you guys for 20 years, and we blow out or knees and our ankles and our hips, we'll have something to take care of us."

    First Student is the company that employs the bus drivers. They say they made a good proposal that the union voted down.

    "There's people here with families that need insurance,” Judith Hungerford, a school bus driver for over 30 years, said. “$1,000 a month out of their pay? That's ridiculous." 

    The bus driver’s union said the latest health care proposal is not good enough for any drivers with spouses or children. 

    KIRO 7 spoke with the union that represents the bus drivers, and representatives said First Student knows what they brought to the negotiating table was not good enough. 

    During a meeting earlier this month, the bus drivers told the union that's representing them that they were not interested in voting for a proposal that only gives them medical coverage.

    Bus drivers want to make sure their children and spouses are also covered with medical insurance. 

    Thoughts from parents, students

    Seattle student Che Dixon admitted before the strike he could see the drivers' point of view. "The strike is within their rights as they fight for better healthcare benefits," he said. “I'd probably do the same thing if I was in their shoes.” 

    Parent Hassan Finch admitted that he had issues with the situation, but simply wanted people to think of children who have to find a different want to school. “It's naturally wrong, kids should come first," he said.

    KIRO 7 also talked to parents outside of Olympic Hills Elementary School in North Seattle during the first day of the strike Thursday. Many were upset they had to find another way to get their kids to school.

    “You have extra cars here, people almost getting in wrecks,” said parent Steven Gilbert.

    “It’s bad for families who use the bus. It’s really bad,” said parent Teresa Solis.

    Thursday night, KIRO 7 spoke with parents picking up their children from school.

    "I have to leave my job like two or three hours early and it's not good. It's not good for me and for my family. I hope this thing is going to be resolved very soon,” said parent Patricia Cortez.

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