First Student school-bus drivers going on strike starting Thursday

Announced tonight by Seattle Public Schools – bus drivers for First Student, with which the district contracts for yellow-bus service, are going on strike starting Thursday. SPS has no classes tomorrow because of the “day between semesters,” but school will be back in session Thursday regardless of transportation status. The drivers’ union, Teamsters Local 174, calls it an “unfair labor practice strike” and adds:

The drivers have been in ongoing negotiations with First Student over healthcare and retirement benefits since last summer. They participated in a one-day Unfair Labor Practice strike on November 29 after their employer unilaterally implemented an inferior healthcare plan that had not been negotiated with the Teamsters. This strike received a great deal of support from the Seattle community. Since then, First Student has not resolved any of the Unfair Labor Practices they had previously committed, including the unilateral implementation of the substandard healthcare plan.

The district has posted answers to frequently asked questions on this page. The union, meantime, says it will have “active picket lines” outside First Student bus yards in South Park and Lake City.

19 Replies to "First Student school-bus drivers going on strike starting Thursday"

  • psps January 30, 2018 (9:51 pm)

    Tim O’Toole, CEO of First Group (owner of First Student) lives in London and is just not able to pay livable wages, what with his £1.2 million annual pay plus £12,000 car allowance, £23,000 for US medical insurance and £9,000 reimbursement of advisory fees (principally relating to taxation in the UK and US).  Oh, and his pension is guaranteed to be a meager £140,000 + 20% of base pay every year. How can any rational person not see how cash-strapped First Student is? The poor guy probably has to do with one less scullery maid.

  • Fred January 30, 2018 (10:10 pm)

    Didn’t the Simpson’s cover this guy? Wasn’t he trapped down a well?

  • Gawdger January 30, 2018 (11:10 pm)

    I’m not buying the community support argument just yet.  It was a 1-day strike and as a parent I knew that…and got to spend another 20mins with the kiddos that day.  Also…That dude is ridiculously underpaid for CEO of a company that size.  Very poor argument point IMO. 

    • The King January 31, 2018 (12:45 am)

      I agree, CEO average salaries in the U.S. were approaching 10 million a year six years ago. Market forces have dictated their salaries, they are paid well so obviously becoming harder to find good ones. This particular CEO is running the largest provider of school bus service in the U.S. I have no knowledge whatsoever to the decisions made to run a company that big, way out of my league to bash the guy. 

      • Swede. January 31, 2018 (9:59 am)

        Great thinking here gentlemen. A company doesn’t stand or fall because they have a ‘great CEO’ so much as it’s dependent on great employees, since they are the ones doing all the work. You really think the busses would be driven better, safer and maintained better if the drivers got even less pay so the CEO could be paid even more to ‘keep up’ with other (overpaid) CEO”s of companies similar size? 

        • Gawdger February 1, 2018 (11:14 am)

          Nice smoke and mirrors reply.  We didn’t have to do any thinking to run a quick web check to see that this CEO makes $9+ MIL less than comparable CEOs.  That’s all I’m saying, so using his pay as an argument is moot.  Also, are you suggesting bus drivers will operate recklessly and the mechanics will purposefully allow unsafe buses to operate if they don’t get a pay and compensation increase?  FYI: None of this has to do with a decrease in pay; in fact, it has to do with a compensation package that tops the National rates.  Sounds like teamster fear mongering to me. 

      • Jon Wright January 31, 2018 (10:44 am)

        I am have absolutely no idea whether or not First Student has a good CEO. But I feel compelled to speak to the notion of “market forces” dictating CEO pay. The board of directors determine CEO pay and board of directors are made up of…a bunch of CEOs. So basically the CEOs  taking care of each other is what is driving high salaries, not “market forces.” Apologies for drifting off topic.

        In an attempt to get back on topic, has there been any word if this is another one-day action or is it going to be extend beyond Thursday?

  • Alpental January 31, 2018 (12:58 am)

    Fudge! Give the drivers a decent healthcare package and help us get our kids to school and back home. Hopeful for a quick resolution. 

  • CandrewB January 31, 2018 (11:27 am)

    A bad CEO can quickly ruin a company. Problem is, no one realizes it until much later.

  • Pedro January 31, 2018 (2:41 pm)

    Seems like the company is acting rationally and in line with just about every other company in the US in not offering full family healthcare benefits to PART TIME employees. If they want healthcare, perhaps they should seek full time jobs.  

    Also, there has been absolutely no finding that First Student engaged in any kind of unfair labor practice by the NLRB with respect to this issue. 

    In short, by all accounts it’s nothing more than a money grab by a bunch of part time employees who are trying to use our kids as bargaining chips. 

    • Swede. January 31, 2018 (4:01 pm)

      My ‘guess’ is that they don’t offer many fulltime positions, so they don’t have to offer any benefits. Just like Walmart for instance. The ‘yuge’ job growth (in general) talked about isn’t actually (mostly) so much that millions of jobs been created as much as fulltime positions been eliminated and made part time… Makes it look like lots of people have work but more importantly the corporations saves a ton on not paying benefits. 

      Like pointed out elsewhere in the thread, since these drivers obviously are just ‘grabbing’ money and have it so awesome, why don’t YOU work there? 

      • Eric January 31, 2018 (7:54 pm)

        Not saying that the bus drivers have it so good and I would take their job.  I wouldn’t drive school buses because my current job pays better, has better benefits, and I don’t have to deal with kids or parents on a daily basis.  


        But I WOULD drive part-time if I were retired, looking for some extra cash and got summers off to travel.  I would have my own health care, and frankly, a split shift would be pretty nice so you can get stuff done during the day.


        That being said, if being a bus driver was my career choice, I could work for Metro which offers benefits for full time drivers.  They pay decent and while I assume the newbies get the crap routes, what career starts you off with the best routes (think flight attendants and pilots) .  This isn’t rocket science: 90% of the school bus drivers are probably part time.  So are a large number of Metro drivers.  It is just the way things work.  Peak ridership for buses (school or work) occurs in what is by default, split shifts.  If you were the CEO would you pay bus drivers to sit around from 10 AM to 2PM just to be nice?  That is why he gets 2 million a year and you and I don’t.  


        I respect the union for trying but I think they are barking up the wrong tree.

  • Oldnative January 31, 2018 (3:25 pm)

    Question’s for the people against the drivers. If they have it so good why aren’t YOU driving a school bus? If parent’s took responsibility for getting THEIR kid’s to school there wouldn’t be a need for ANY drivers. By the way, i walked to Genesee Hill, Madison and West Seattle every day. 

    • Older native January 31, 2018 (4:01 pm)

      I too am a native and first… disregard CEO comp and look at the impact and result. The Union doesn’t even let the members vote on a proposal with some merit?

      174 is a nasty organization and bad for Seattle. The 401k and 80 percent paid healthcare benefit is far above average and pensions are gone.. especially Teamsters pensions. So too much union arrogance and who pays.. drivers and parents 

  • Mike January 31, 2018 (5:53 pm)

    I’m still confused how the largest district in the state doesn’t have it’s own busses and driver’s.  We hand out a lot of tax payer dollars to outside forces.

    • Jon Wright January 31, 2018 (6:36 pm)

      Because if the drivers were SPS employees, SPS wouldn’t be able to throw their hands up and blame First Student if there was a drivers’ strike? ;)

  • 1994 January 31, 2018 (7:25 pm)

    Some of us don’t want part time employment but for some of the bus drivers part time status may work for them. 

    If there are 300 + drivers, why are only 70 to 80 voting on the contract?  Doesn’t seem like a fair vote.  And certainly not fair to hold kids and parents hostage.

    Seattle Public Schools was supposed to have neighborhood schools to reduce transportation costs (and what about reducing pollution?) – what happened to that idea? Seems like it took off on the wind as soon as it was discussed and sort of implemented in SPS fashion..

    • WSB January 31, 2018 (7:35 pm)

      They do have neighborhood schools. But they are not spaced so close together that transportation is unnecessary. SPS actually has cut down dramatically on the amount of yellow-bus service for which it contracts – except for special circumstances, middle- and high-school students get passes for Metro if needed, for example.

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