(TOPEKA, Kan.) – Today members from Teamsters Locals 696, 795 and 838 attended a hearing at the Kansas State Capitol to support Senate Bill 38. They were joined by John Billigmeier, Central Region Vice President of First Student, the nation’s largest school bus company, and Kansas Department of Labor Deputy Secretary Brett Flachsbarth.
SB 38 would extend unemployment insurance (UI) in the summer months to school bus drivers employed by private companies. Currently Kansas is one of the only states in the region where privatized school bus drivers are not eligible to collect unemployment benefits in spite of their employers paying into the system. The legislation is currently being considered by the Kansas Senate Commerce Committee. Its companion legislation in the Kansas House of Representatives, HB 2148, has been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Labor and Economic Development. Local 696 Secretary-Treasurer Matt Hall told the committee that SB 38 would improve safety and reduce turnover in the school bus industry.
“This is an industry that demands the highest safety and background check standards,” Hall said. “Retaining and recruiting safe, professional drivers is key to the well-being of our children and the public at large because they haul our most precious cargo. When companies lose experienced drivers because they can’t afford to work at this job anymore our schools, children and communities lose.”
First Student Driver and Local 838 Member Ray Alvarez also spoke at the hearing. He said that the inequities in the industry create hardships for drivers.
“When drivers don’t have economic security in the summer months it’s a real struggle to make ends meet – some of our best drivers are forced to take other jobs and many times they do not return to drive in the fall,” Alvarez said. “Workers in other industries are able to collect unemployment when they are laid off; even the bus monitors who work alongside us are able to collect unemployment when they are laid off. Why not us?”
The Teamsters Union represents more than 500 school bus workers across Kansas and workers in a wide variety of other industries throughout the state.