Seattle Public Schools bus drivers strike looms over wages and retirement benefits
Seattle Public Schools (SPS) posted a warning on Monday that First Student bus drivers may stage a strike at any time. The dispute between the district and First Student has been ongoing with a one day strike taking place last Nov. 29. First Student supplies 400 drivers and drives approximately 12,000 students per day. The dispute is about health and retirement benefits. First Student is asking for up to a 20% wage increase and an annual cash stipend of up to $1,920 for each employee who chooses to not receive healthcare benefits.
Here's the latest information from Seattle Public Schools:
This is the latest information about labor issues that may affect your student’s First Student school bus route. Our next update will come when there is new information to share.
First Student school bus drivers voted down a benefits package on Jan. 6, 2018. After the vote, the drivers’ union indicated First Student drivers could strike again. The district does not know when or if a strike will happen. However, we will continue to closely monitor.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have questions that are not addressed below, please send us an email at email@example.com opens an email client application opens an email client application .
Will schools be closed if there is a bus driver strike?
No. Schools will remain open and on regular schedule.
Can the district cancel school and make up the days like you would for snow days?
No. We are required by law to provide 180 days of instruction. Sometimes, our calendar is disrupted because of weather. The state allows us to make up this time at the end of the school year, and the make-up days have been bargained in advance with our teachers union.
If we can't get our child to school, will their absence be excused?
No, a missed day due to a transportation strike is not considered an excused absence under state law. Visit the Wash. State Legislature website to read the state-wide definition of excused and unexcused absences Opens a New Window. .
What options exist if the school buses don’t run?
We are encouraging families to create alternate plans for getting their child to school. Some of the options include forming carpools or walking school buses with neighbors and classmates, or for students old enough to do so, riding public transport.
What if I can’t get my child to school?
In that event, please notify your school. Missed classwork, homework and tests may be made up per approval of the classroom teacher. Families can read the list of state-wide definition of excused and unexcused absences on the Wash. State Legislature website Opens a New Window. and the district’s associated Superintendent Procedure SP3121 opens a pdf file opens a pdf file Opens a New Window. .
What will happen if I can't get to school to pick up my child at the end of the school day?
Principals are making plans to help supervise students when possible until their family or approved emergency contact can pick them up. Please notify the school of any delays or changes in your child's pickup routine so they are aware and can provide support. Most schools will require that any delay in pickup is pre-arranged due to limited space and staffing. Please contact your school as soon as possible to discuss your family’s needs.
Special Education Transportation
What impacts would a strike have on transportation for special education students?
Any student that rides a First Student bus would be affected. Some of our students in special education have district-arranged, private transportation other than a First Student bus. These students’ transportation would not be disrupted.
Field Trips, Sports and Before and After-school Programs
How would sports or field trips be affected?
Charter buses will be used for athletic competitions, but field trips will be canceled.
Why would the district provide charter buses for sports but not school?
A little more than 12,000 students ride a yellow bus daily. While we could hire enough charter buses to cover athletic activities, there isn't a provider large enough to meet the needs of our daily yellow bus ridership.
My child is enrolled in child care at the school. Is there any impact I should plan for?
We don't expect any impact to child care. However, you should talk to your provider to confirm.
Will there be transportation for after-school programs?
If a community partner uses First Student buses, there would not be transportation available. Please check with your child's after school program to see if the program will still be available and what the plans are for transportation.
If bus drivers strike, how will we find out?
Should a strike be called, the district will immediately notify families these ways:
- Website posts (school and district)
- Our Facebook and Twitter pages
- A phone message and email, including messages in home language.
Only the families of those students who ride First Student buses will receive a phone message and email from the district.
We will notify local media, which likely provide regular updates throughout any strike scenario. We also commit to announce the restoration of bus service as quickly as possible.
How do I make sure to get a phone call if a strike happens?
Please make sure your emergency contact information is updated at your child's school. Please also have an emergency contact listed that has permission to pick up your child. Only the families of those students who ride First Student buses will receive a phone message and email from the district.
Other Questions and Next Steps
Whose employees are the bus drivers?
The drivers are employees of First Student. The district has a contract with First Student to provide uninterrupted bus service.
What obligations does First Student have under its contract with the district?
First Student is required to provide uninterrupted bus service to the district’s students. First Student promised in its contract to not have a labor strike and is required to provide sufficient pay and benefits to attract and retain a bus driver workforce.
First Student outlined their perspective on their own site:
Over the holidays, First Student representatives spoke with Local 174 leadership multiple times. Based on these discussions, we redoubled our efforts to address the union’s stated objectives and priorities.
We came to a tentative agreement with Local 174 leadership, but the offer was not ratified by union members. We are surprised and disappointed that our offer wasn’t accepted.
In the agreed-upon proposal, we offered to provide comprehensive health benefits for all drivers and committed to pay 80 percent of the cost. Based on the monthly premium of $582, First Student would pay $466 and each employee would pay $116 – an annual benefit of more than $5,500 for each employee.
These benefits are in addition to a significant wage increase and cash stipend that union members ratified in August 2016:
• A wage increase of up to 20 percent with a top wage of more than $24 per hour.
• An annual cash stipend of up to $1,920 for each employee who chooses to not receive healthcare benefits.
Over the last four years, First Student has increased average wages by more than 38 percent.
At First Student, we view ourselves as an integral part of the Seattle community. We understand the critical nature of our work, and we take great pride in what we do.
We want to partner with Local 174 to ensure the best possible outcome for our drivers, our students and the community. Our goal is to reach an agreement that’s fair and equitable for all parties.
Senior Director of Corporate Communications