Union says vaccine mandate will worsen bus driver shortage

Schools and businesses are preparing for the new vaccine mandate for all employees who work with school-age children.

Some unions in Washington stated questions are flooding in on how to get a vaccine exemption, with some saying it’ll make staffing shortages even worse. The new vaccine mandate decrees that people who refuse to get the shot will lose their jobs.

Teamsters Local 174, which represents school bus drivers in Seattle, stated it is worried about the impact.

The union is making clear that it is pro-vaccination and urging members to get their shots but stated when it comes to the mandate that it is concerned.

“When you actually talk to the people this is affecting, it’s not political. It’s fear-based. They just feel really strongly about this. So the way to get around that isn’t to threaten somebody’s job, that’s not going to help,” said Jamie Fleming, a spokesperson for Teamsters Local 174.

The union stated there’s currently a shortage of 40 drivers for Seattle schools.

“If they try to follow through with termination, of course it’s going to make the shortage worse. It’s just math. If you already don’t have enough people, and you make the pool smaller, you’re going to have problems,” Fleming said.

Seattle Public Schools confirmed that according to the bus contractor, First Student, job applications are coming in, and it is still expecting to be set for the school year. But drivers said they know the mandate has some colleagues questioning their return.

“There are definitely drivers who are on the fence with being forced to do something that they just want more information on,” said Treva White, a bus driver who is vaccinated.

However, there is also strong support for the vaccine mandate. Elementary schoolteacher Kate Schueler said when she heard about the new mandate on Wednesday, she was thrilled.

“Honestly, I almost got teary,” Schueler said.

She teaches at John Muir Elementary in Seattle and is a mother to a first-grader.

“Those students are vulnerable because they are not eligible for the vaccine yet,” Schueler said. “So ensuring that every adult they contact is vaccinated is just such a relief and makes me so excited for the school year, knowing we’re doing everything we can to keep them safe,” she said.

The state’s teachers union, the Washington Education Association, confirmed Thursday it has not heard of any teachers planning to quit yet over the mandate, but questions about exemptions are flooding in. How, exactly, medical and religious exemptions will work is still being determined.

“I’m hopeful the educators who are resistant to the vaccine, that after speaking to their doctors, will know this is the best way we can help children, which is why we all became teachers,” Schueler said.

“The freedom of our children who don’t have a choice comes as a priority for me,” she said.

Comments on this article