Strike ends as bus drivers reach healthcare agreement with First Student

Healthcare and pension expanded for Seattle bus drivers

Claire Moriarty, Opinions Editor
Originally published February 16, 2018

Julian WhitworthWhittier elementary school Bryan Pule holds a sign supporting the First Student bus drivers' strike.

Julian Whitworth

Whittier elementary school Bryan Pule holds a sign supporting the First Student bus drivers’ strike.

First Student school bus drivers were on an Unfair Labor Practice strike from Feb. 1 to Feb. 10 after negotiations pertaining to healthcare and pension failed. They have since ratified an agreement, and the bus service is running again.

First Student and Teamsters Local 174, the union supporting the bus drivers, had been negotiating retirement benefits affordable healthcare for families since last summer. First Student initially asked that Teamsters hold off on addressing these issues for a year, claiming they would then be able to bring more money to the bargaining table. When these negotiations continued, however, no new money was put forward. This inaction prompted a one-day strike by the drivers on Nov. 29.

Jamie Fleming is the Communications Director for Teamsters Local 174. “The purpose of that strike was to show First Student that the drivers were serious about their mission to get affordable healthcare coverage for themselves and their families,” Fleming said in an e-mail.

After the November strike, First Student slightly amended their proposal for healthcare coverage, but with an annual deductible of over $6,000 for individual insurance, healthcare remained unaffordable for the drivers, who make around $2,000 a month. This proposal was rejected by a margin of 85 percent. The Unfair Labor Practice strike was called shortly after that, when the union and First Student tried and failed again to reach an agreement.

“We know the impact on Seattle families has been challenging. Impact on the bus drivers has been even more challenging. But they are not going to give up a fight that they known they deserve to win,” Fleming said. “This is not about greed or extra spending money; it is about insurance people need to live.”

During the strike, about 12,000 students in the Seattle school district were without transportation.

Teamsters announced on Feb. 10 that they had reached an agreement with First Student. 97 percent of voters cast their ballots in favor of expanded healthcare and pension for the drivers. This new agreement will provide over 400 drivers with affordable year-round health benefits, which will be life-changing for many.