Mat-Su bus workers strike as negotiations stall
Union claims not much progress was made at Monday’s meeting
PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - The threat of a strike by Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District bus workers became a reality on Tuesday morning, after representatives from their union and Durham School Services failed to settle a contract dispute after returning to the negotiation table Monday.
Schools will remain open, but most in the district will not be providing bus service for students.
According to the school district’s website, no bus service will be offered on Wednesday, Feb. 1 for most schools. Schools that are served by a different contractor will continue bus service as usual. Those Glacier View School, Su-Valley Junior/Senior High, Talkeetna Elementary, Trapper Creek Elementary, and Willow Elementary.
Students that are unable to attend due to lack of bus service will be able to make up the lost time. Parents of students who have to miss class should contact their school directly for instructions.
The strike comes after union members in early January overwhelmingly voted 98% in favor of authorizing a strike if current contract negotiations aren’t met. Much of those negotiations surround concerns over workers and student safety.
Alaska Teamsters Union - Local 959, who represents the workers, said progress has yet to be seen.
Last Thursday around 50 bus drivers, attendants, and monitors staged a practice picket outside Durham’s bus yard in Palmer. Kelsey Taylor, a representative for the union, joined the group as they waved signs and cheered on buses sounding their horns in solidarity.
“We need to make sure that the community understands the issues,” Taylor said. “These people are out here on their own time, they’re not getting paid. They want to make sure that the community knows that there’s a problem here.”
It was a symbolic glimpse of what the labor movement would look like if the members move forward with the looming strike. Handmade posters read phrases such as “I’d Rather Work Than Walk”, “Can You Hear Us Now”, and “Dont’ Throw Us Under The Bus”.
“They transport my child — my child rides the buses,” Taylor stated. “It’s very important (for) everybody to know that when you have your kid at the bus stop, that they’re going to get safe, reliable transportation to school.”
Among those in support of the informational practice picket was bus driver Dennis Little, who’s been driving for over 26 years.
“There are issues that we need to have addressed so that we can do our job safely, without the distraction of the worries that we have,” Little said. “Safety is our biggest issue right now, we want to feel safe. We want to have the opportunity to make sure our equipment is safe before we go out and transport the students.”
The wheels are still rolling for Mat-Su school district students with negotiations scheduled to continue Tuesday, but workers remain poised to have it all come to a stop if the two parties are unable to reach an agreement soon.
Copyright 2023 KTUU. All rights reserved.