Collage of Local 853 members

Sharpening pencils brings up First Student drivers’ wages

The contract for the 60 school bus drivers at First Student in San Jose had expired in August 2020, but because COVID was hot and heavy, the union decided to do an indefinite extension. “We had no idea what was going on in the world,” says Business Rep Tracy Kelley. “Schools shut down in March and never re-opened. Students were distance learning for more than a year, and there was no bus service at all. Would it ever re-start? At that point, we had no idea what the future held.” Kelley adds that this unit was already underpaid by the industry standard, and being unable to work just added insult to injury.

In October 2021, the drivers were back to work and it seemed like things were moving in a positive way, so Kelley opened up the contract for negotiations. “Our members turned down the company’s first offer because it was so sub-par,” Kelly explains, adding that he advised the company to try to get more money out of the school district. “We met with the company again and they sharpened their pencils and presented us a much better offer, proving significant increases from where they started.” Even though the union would like to see significant increases in the future, the members passed the contract unanimously in June.

Many thanks to Lupe Avalos and Lucy Seramento who did a great job representing their co-workers at the bargaining sessions.

Author: Local 853

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