Headline News

First Student Teamsters in Georgia to Take Strike Vote


(Savannah) – Employees of First Student, who provide school bus service to Chatham County schools, Georgia will vote Saturday to authorize their union to call a strike over unfair labor practices and the Company’s refusal to meet their demands regarding income security over the summer months.

First Student employees, who are represented by Teamsters Local 728, face the loss of unemployment benefits beginning in January of next year due to legislation passed by the General Assembly during the 2014 session. School bus drivers and monitors have been receiving unemployment benefits during the summer months since the county privatized bus service over fifteen years ago.

The workers say that First Student and the Chatham County School Board both have a responsibility to find a solution to the elimination of benefits. “Before they privatized us we received pro-rated summer pay,” said bus driver Rachel Roundtree. ”When they brought in the contractor they kept us at the prorated amounted and replaced our summer pay with unemployment. It’s not fair that we totally lose that income now.”

Teamster negotiators say that the company has refused to negotiate any solution to the loss of pay over the summer and so far the Chatham School Board has remained uninvolved in the dispute. “We believe that the school board has a stake in these negotiations and that they need to be involved,” says Teamsters Local 728 Randy Brown. “If we don’t find a solution to summer pay, not only are the workers prepared to strike, a large number won’t be coming back after the summer. This means large numbers of safe, experienced drivers no longer transporting the children.”

Rank and file leaders say that support for a strike is very strong and they expect the vote to authorize a strike to be overwhelming. “My coworkers are ready to do whatever it takes to make sure their families are supported during the months they are laid off,” said school bus driver James Simpkins. “Getting another job for two months over the summer every year during the lay-off is just not realistic.”

The strike authorization vote will be conducted at a special called union meeting Saturday, October 18th at 10:00am at IBEW Local 508 union hall 1526 Dean Forrest Road.
Teamsters Local 728 is a statewide local union affiliated to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters representing over 8,000 members throughout Georgia.