Seattle school bus company seeking new drivers amid union strike
As striking Seattle school bus drivers walked the picket lines Wednesday morning, I received an email from their estranged employer, First Student, offering me a job.
“First Student is currently hiring part time entry level and experienced bus drivers at our Lake City and South Seattle locations,” the email read.
It seems they found an old resume floating on a job website. There are a couple details to pull from this: watch out for personal information you have left lingering on the internet; and also, First Student yellow school bus service is looking to hire new drivers while its unionized drivers are on strike.
According to a First Student spokesperson, the hiring effort is not out of the ordinary. The company provided this statement:
First Student is not seeking to add new workers to circumvent our union workforce. To address the ongoing driver shortage, our Seattle locations are actively recruiting new drivers year-round. The school bus driver shortage is a well-documented, national problem. Any new hires would be subject to First Student’s collective bargaining agreement with Local 174.
The two locations that First Student notes in its job postings — Lake City and South Seattle — are the same sites where members of the Teamsters Local 174 are picketing. According to the latest update from the drivers, 400 of its union members are on strike, protesting unfair labor practices. They are requesting a better medical plan and retirement pay. King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant have both stopped by the picket lines in support.
The union also claims that First Student officials have texted its members asking them to cross the picket line, and have even attempted to “bribe” them.
Seattle school bus jobs
It’s unknown how long First Student’s job postings have been up — if they were posted recently or if they were up even before the strike.
There’s a $1,000 signing bonus for new drivers that’s valid until September. No experience necessary, which is good since my bus-driving experience ends at the Volkswagon class of vehicles. The school bus company will train new drivers at $15 an hour.
First Student is offering up $18 an hour once on the job — which, let’s be honest, most writers would be OK with. But it’s only a part-time gig with 20+ hours guaranteed. The rest of the job description provides a cheery picture of the company, though I’m not sure the Seattle school bus union would agree.
“Through our commitment to putting customers first, dedication to safety, and ambition to deliver the best means we’ve created a working environment that you’ll love … And, because we’re a huge company with 120,000 staff and over 2.5 billion customers worldwide, you’ll also enjoy real security, a brilliant future, and fantastic training.”
State Superintendent’s Office response
Some frustrated Seattle parents are calling state leaders to figure out what they can do to end the bus drivers’ strike.
“Oh yeah, we’re getting a few phone calls from parents that are not very happy,” said Glen Gorton, head of transportation at the State Superintendent’s Office.
But Gorton says there’s nothing the state agency can do. It’s all in the hands of the local school board.
“There’s nothing in law that says it’s mandatory for the school to get them to the school,” Gorton said. “Now, if the district chooses to do transportation, then it is mandated that we fund that.”
Transportation is funded based on what the district spent in the prior school year. Seattle Public Schools wouldn’t see any financial affects until next year, if at all. The Seattle district would receive a smaller check next year only if overall school year spending is down, according to Gorton. He says that’s highly unlikely, even with the current strike.
KIRO Radio contributed to this report.