Georgia school bus drivers’ strike ends after new contract agreed
A school bus driver strike has ended in northwest Georgia, but school bus routes will not return to normal for the last week of school.
Union bus drivers voted on Friday to accept a new contract with the private company that operates school buses in the Dalton School District after a five-day strike.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1212 members say they won higher wages, paid vacation days, retention bonus, new grievance procedure and seniority improvements in new contract three-year term with Cincinnati-based First Student.
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“This strike has shown the power of fighting for our rights,” local union president Lakecha Strickland said in a statement. “This was one of the first strikes at Dalton in decades, and our members have remained strong and united.”
But the district of 7,500 students and First Student said a limited system of consolidated bus stops would continue until classes end Friday. The district and the company said they “do not feel able to provide consistent service on all of our scheduled routes.”
The union said the drivers went on strike because the company retaliated against union members by cutting paid summer work when contract negotiations failed. The union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board accusing First Student of breaching labor laws. The company denies breaching labor laws.
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The union said around 40 drivers, bus conductors and mechanics went on strike. The company said about 20 employees broke through the picket lines and continued driving.
It is illegal for public employees to collectively bargain or strike in Georgia, but these rules do not apply to drivers of private school bus companies.
District bus drivers voted to join the union in December.
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Dalton held the school online on the first day of the strike, then in person.
“First Student would like to thank Dalton Public Schools and their families for their patience and understanding during this process,” spokeswoman Jen Biddinger told the Chattanooga Times Free Press in an email. “We look forward to once again focusing on what we do best, which is providing safe and reliable transportation.”