Minneapolis school bus drivers unanimously vote to authorize strike | KSTP.com

Minneapolis school bus drivers unanimously vote to authorize strike

Minneapolis school bus drivers unanimously vote to authorize strike Photo: KSTP-TV.

Gracie Stockton
Updated: November 14, 2021 06:15 PM
Created: November 13, 2021 07:24 PM

Minneapolis school bus drivers and dispatchers unanimously voted to authorize a strike Saturday. 

According to a press release, nearly 100 Minneapolis Public Schools bus dispatchers and drivers represented by the Teamsters Local 320 union voted to strike if a state-facilitated mediation is unable to resolve key issues, including pay and safety concerns. 

“We've got an angry group of drivers,” Brian Aldes, Teamsters Local 320 Union secretary-treasurer and principal officer, said. "We're hoping that the district is prepared to come to the table and resolve the dispute.”

The union alleges that the district has offered "seasoned" employees a $0.11 per hour raise for working longer hours and adding routes for over-capacity buses. They also say that addressing retention issues is "desperately needed" during a "severe" shortage of school bus drivers. In terms of safety, on top of COVID-19 exposure, they've had incidents go so far as a parent brandishing a firearm. 

"If the District doesn't increase its economic offer and address the other significant issues we've put on the bargaining table we have been authorized to engage in a full-scale work stoppage with active picket lines and ambulatory pickets at the schools," Aldes said.

The first mediation session between the union and district is on Dec. 1. Employees are unable to legally strike until 45 days after that. 

Minneapolis Public Schools issued the following statement: 

Minneapolis Public Schools bus drivers are critical partners in supporting educational access to our school community. We are committed to reaching an agreement through the mediation process and are working to ensure that bus service for students is not interrupted. MPS is making every effort to resolve the collective-bargaining agreement with Local 320.

Aldes described the drivers as "angry," "frustrated," "scared," but "ready to do what's necessary," following their Saturday morning meeting and vote. 

“We’re demanding that Minneapolis Public Schools compensate their drivers appropriately which means that they're competitive with the market," he said.

Schools across the state are also facing bus driver shortages.

In August, local schools addressed the national bus driver shortage, proposing solutions like offering parents incentives to drive their children, streamlining bus stops and utilizing other vehicles like vans. 

Union members spoke out in September, calling the shortage a "crisis," while districts asked parents to remain patient.

St. Paul schools' start of the year was affected by the shortage. Parents scrambled in Stillwater.

Republican Sen. David Osmek is working a second job in Westonka school district to help ease the shortage, and he spoke with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Wednesday. 

Robinsdale schools are trying an "opt-out" plan, which entails asking parents if they're able to drive their kids. They plan to train drivers over winter break and roll out routes at the start of the second semester. 

"Every independent school district in Minnesota is facing a bus driver shortage but Teamsters are prepared to do something about it where the administration and politicians have failed," Aldes said Saturday. 

Brittney Ermon contributed to this report

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