Rep. Morales supports rights of school bus drivers,
STATE HOUSE – Rep. David Morales supports the school bus drivers and monitors of Teamsters Local 251, who recently voted to authorize strikes in Pawtucket, Bristol-Warren, Smithfield and Scituate.
“Across our state, school bus workers have been diligently transporting our most precious cargo, our children, and have been very patient as negotiations have been going on for well over a year in at least three locations. About a year ago, Smithfield and Scituate workers organized, and they are still waiting patiently for their first contracts,” said Representative Morales (D-Dist. 7, Providence). “Most of these essential workers haven’t even received a raise during the height of the pandemic, despite the industry seeing an increasing shortage of workers due to safety concerns and low wages. Our workers already have it hard enough because between facing regular layoffs on virtual days, school bus work is mostly part time with split shifts and regular layoffs built in. All that said, our school bus drivers and monitors are absolutely critical to the education and safety of our children. They deserve a lot more support and respect from the companies that contract their vital services. While we did pass legislation earlier this year to eventually establish prevailing wages for school bus workers and reasonable contract lengths, it is has become apparent based on my conversations with union members that our state must go a step further and urgently invest federal ARPA funds in the short-term to ensure that these labor needs are being met by bridging the gap in current revenue agreements.”
School bus drivers and monitors have been taking action for fair treatment all over Rhode Island. Teamsters voted to authorize strikes recently in Smithfield, Pawtucket, Bristol-Warren and Scituate. Informational picketing has been conducted in Pawtucket, Bristol-Warren, Scituate and Portsmouth.
Union leaders say First Student – the student transportation company in several of the towns where negotiations are ongoing — stalled in bargaining with Local 251, causing frustration that doesn’t help with the worker shortage in the industry, as qualified workers have sought other opportunities. Durham, another transportation provider, pays Smithfield workers among the lowest in the state, and the union believes they have committed unfair labor practices.
A law passed by the General Assembly this year (2021-H 6118A, 2021-S 0635A) will eventually provide for prevailing wage and 180 paid school days on future contracts between schools and transportation providers. Until the law is fully implemented, members of Local 251 are calling for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to be used to bridge the gaps in current revenue agreements in order to ensure that in the short-term these labor needs are being met. Representative Morales supports these ARPA investments and plans to advocate for it during the 2022 legislative session.