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Company agrees to continue negotiating with Vashon school bus drivers
A dispute over wages for Vashon’s school bus drivers will not lead to a strike any time soon, said Jason Powell, the business agent for the drivers' union.
Powell said First Student, the company that provides Vashon's school bus service, agreed to continue negotiating with the Teamsters Local Union No. 763 after the bus drivers handed out pamplets last week in Vashon town reading “Labor dispute could impact student transportation.” The groups are scheduled to continue negotiations in late September.
“I think that it's the right thing for (First Student) to do,” Powell said. “I'll reserve judgement until we reach an agreement on what they have to say and if they're willing to address our core concerns.”
After previously giving the Teamsters union what First Student officials said was their last and final contract offer, 11 of Vashon's approximately 15 substitute and regular bus drivers handed out hundreds of fliers in Vashon town on Monday, Aug. 26. The fliers asked islanders to call First Student and request that the company negotiate a fare wage for the island drivers.
According to Powell, the drivers believe their wages are not equal to those of First Student drivers in other parts of the state. They also claim there are wage inequities among the Vashon drivers themselves and that First Student has stalled negotiations for months and withheld public information concerning wages in other areas.
Powell said some of Vashon's drivers, who all live on the island, wanted to strike, but he encouraged them to hold off. A strike, which would require a vote of more than 50 percent of the group, is still possible in the future, he said, but not before the Sept. 23 bargaining date.
“The drivers have a commitment to the community and a labor dispute is only going to be because they have no other choice,” he said.
The union also filed formal charges against First Student with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), claiming the company — the nation's largest provider of school buses — has been bargaining in bad faith.