School Bus Drivers Strike in Southern California

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School districts and contractor First Student respond to a school bus driver strike that is organized by the Teamsters 572 union and is leaving some Los Angeles area students without transportation. 

The strike began on Thursday with little to no warning. FIrst Student spokesperson Jen Biddinger told STN that the company is determined to resume normal operations for the families who depend on them as soon as possible. “At First Student, we understand the critical nature of our work, and we take great pride in what we do. We are extremely disappointed Teamsters Local 572 decided to strike, and so abruptly with no notification to the community,” she said.

“We have worked with the Teamsters Local 572 leadership to bring two separate prior agreements to the table. Both were voted down by union representaion,” Biddinger explained. “We are committed to reaching an agreement that is fair and reasonable for both parties.”

The strike began Thursday for Pasadena Unified School District, which contracts with First Student to provide school bus services for its 29 schools and programs. On Friday, First Student provided drivers for 11 special-education routes as well as one general education route. All other regular routes and most special-education routes were not in operation, forcing students and parents to find alternative modes of transport. A notice on the district’s website on Tuesday said that all buses, except for those running some special education routes, were still unavailable.  

“It has severely impacted transportation services for our students, including planned school field trips,” PUSD spokesperson Hilda Ramirez Horvath told STN on Friday afternoon. “Yesterday there were 452 students who were scheduled for school field trips. Buses for athletics were also affected.”

She added that the district asked parents to make alternate arrangements to get children to and from school. “Should the situation change over the weekend we will inform our parents and staff,” she said. “We are working to find solutions with other transportation companies in case the strike continues.”

Glendale Unified School District informed parents on Thursday morning it had also been notified by First Student that school buses would not be available that day due to the driver strike. “We’ve been informed by our bus service provider that some drivers have crossed the picket lines and are currently picking up students, however service continues to be intermittent and we do not currently know which routes will be picked up and when,” the district said.

“Come to school if you drive or can get a ride. Classes are still in session,” updates posted on Twitter said. “Absences and tardies will be excused for students who should have been provided bus service today.”

School field trips and middle school sports on Thursday and Friday were canceled. Charter buses were arranged for high school sports competitions being held from Thursday through Saturday. On Tuesday, the district reported that some buses had resumed running their routes.

Alhambra Unified School District is also affected, as First Student provides transportation for its special needs students. On Friday, licensed staff were using rented passenger vans to provide transportation to these students. 

“Our position is, we’re going to do everything we can to get the kids to school,” Superintendent Denise Jaramillo told the Los Angeles Daily News.

“We’d like them to resolve this quickly,” Horvath said. “Because it affects learning and it is affecting getting students to school.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that the union gave unfair business practices as the reason for the strike.