School bus driver strike ends in NW Georgia as union members ratify new contract
A school bus driver strike is over in northwest Georgia, but school bus routes won’t be going back to normal for the last week of school.
Unionized bus drivers on Friday voted to accept a new contract with the private company that runs school buses for the Dalton school district after a five-day strike.
Members of Local 1212 of the Amalgamated Transit Union say they won higher wages, paid vacation days, a retention bonus, a new grievance procedure and improvements to seniority in a new three-year contract with Cincinnati-based First Student.
“This strike showed the power of fighting for our rights,” local union President Lakecha Strickland said in a statement. “This was one of the first strikes in Dalton in decades, and our members stood strong and united.”
But the 7,500-student district and First Student said that a limited system of consolidated bus stops would continue until class ends Friday. The district and company said they “do not feel they can consistently provide service to all of our regular routes.”
The union said drivers went on strike because the company retaliated against union members by taking away paid summer work when contract talks faltered. The union filed legal charges with the National Labor Relations Board accusing First Student of breaking labor laws. The company denies breaking labor laws.
The union said about 40 drivers, bus monitors and mechanics went on strike. The company said about 20 employees crossed picket lines and kept driving.
It’s illegal for public employees to bargain collectively or strike in Georgia, but those rules don’t apply to drivers for private school bus companies.
The district’s bus drivers voted to join the union in December.
Dalton held school online on the first day of the strike, and then in person.
“First Student wants to thank Dalton Public Schools and their families for their patience and understanding during this process,” spokesperson Jen Biddinger told the Chattanooga Times Free Press in an email.
“We look forward to getting back to focusing fully on what we do best, providing safe and reliable transportation.”