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About 400 School Bus Drivers In Seattle Will Go On A One-Day Strike

Mel Peffs

About 400 school bus drivers in Seattle will go on a one-day strike on Wednesday to protest what they say are unfair labor practices committed by their employer, First Student, which holds the bus transportation contract for the district. 

About 12,000 students in Seattle regularly use school buses. 

Teamsters Local 174 said in a press release the company has unilaterally implemented an "inferior" medical plan for the bus drivers without bargaining, a move that the union said is illegal under the National Labor Relations Act. 

"This company has shown over and over that they do not value our members, and quite frankly, they do not value Seattle's families, either," said Rick Hicks, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 174. "First Student has had every opportunity to prevent this from happening, but instead of taking action to protect Seattle families from the headache of a strike, they have sat smugly back and continued to offer nothing of substance to our members at the bargaining table."

First Student spokesman Chris Kemper said in an emailed statement that the company offered additional funding for health care and retirement benefits in the last two weeks, but that the union leadership chose not to present the offer to their members. He said that the company and a federal mediator have contacted the union's leadership to continue negotiations but that their calls haven't been returned.

"We're very disappointed Teamsters Local 174 leadership chose to disrupt transportation for children to and from Seattle schools tomorrow," Kemper said in the email. "We know what a hardship this interruption is to the families who rely on our service."

He said that the company remains ready to return to the bargaining table.

In a post on its website, Seattle Public Schools said that school will remain open. The district is urging families to make alternate arrangements for getting their kids to school. Families that rely on other district-provided means of transportation, such as a taxi, will not have their service disrupted. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.