Mat-Su school bus drivers vote to authorize strike
An overwhelming 98% of members voted in favor to strike if negotiations fall through
WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Teamsters Union Local 959, who represent Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District bus drivers, voted in favor Tuesday to authorize a strike if current contract negotiations are not met.
The strike, approved by an overwhelming 98% of the union’s members, would apply to school bus drivers, attendants, and monitors.
Organizer for the union, Derek Musto, said Thursday that the union is hopeful that Durham School Services, the company that employs the district’s bus drivers, will see the value in its employees and avoid disruption to valley families.
“This is an overwhelming vote,” Musto said. “I think it sends a clear message and I think that vote alone stands on its own.”
This will be the first contract the union will have under Durham, after its contract with First Student expired when the district made the switch in pupil transportation services. The school district made the announcement last year that Durham was awarded a 10-year transportation contract worth nearly $200 million.
The vote to authorize a strike stems from issues surrounding safety, equipment, and monitoring, according to Musto. In a press release issued by the union, negotiation tactics used by Durham were described as “flippant.”
The announcement of a potential strike comes after a rocky start to the school year, as the district faced a long stretch of rolling route closures caused by a shortage of drivers.
“A bus driver strike is not good for kids and not good for our families,” MSBSD spokesperson Jillian Morrissey said in a statement. “We are encouraging both Durham and the local Teamsters to return to the negotiating table and resolve this contract and keep buses on the road.”
Durham School Services’ parent company, National Express LLC, also issued a statement, saying that it will continue to negotiate in good faith and that it respects the employees who work under the company’s student transportation service.
“We remain optimistic that we can come to an agreement on a contract with no disruption in service,” the statement read. “Our priority is getting our students to school safely, on time, and ready to learn each day.”
Musto said that the parties are currently in caucus and that negotiations are expected to pick back up this coming Tuesday.
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