Posts Tagged ‘First Student’

Local 1741 leadership says workers reaching “point of no return”

In a letter Sept. 28, Local 1741 President Sharon Chappill and General Chairperson Jadier Castano told the San Francisco Unified Schools and First Student that they are courting a school bus driver shortage whenever district schools reopen if they go through a plan to cut off health care coverage and lay off school bus drivers starting Oct. 1 prior to the reopening of in-person learning.

“If nothing is done, there is no question in our mind that there will be a driver shortage, as drivers and staff are compelled to look elsewhere for work to pay their rent and provide for their families,” they wrote. “We think the youth and families of San Francisco deserve better.”

“As we near a point-of-no-return, we are urging that (the San Francisco Unified School District and First Student) come together and find a way to provide for these vital components of a child’s education: school bus drivers.”

They asked supporters in the Bay Area to contact the school district to get them to find another solution.

“We hope that you will reach out and raise your voice in any way you can,” Chappill and Castano said.

Local 1741 leaders have organized rallies and encouraged activism at the virtual board meetings. In their letter, Chappill and Castano suggested that the drivers could help bridge the gap for students and families hit hard by the economic crisis, perhaps by providing food deliveries for those who need assistance.

“Please do not drive us away by cutting off our health care,” they wrote. “Please don’t throw our drivers under the bus.”

First Student shares top winter safety tips for drivers, students and parents

While winter officially arrives on December 21, many areas of the country have already been experiencing snow and ice, which can mean dangerous driving conditions. First Student urges motorists, students and parents to take extra precautions this time of year to stay safe on the roads and at the bus stop.

Even in winter weather, school buses are the safest way for children to get to and from school.

First Student buses are twice as safe as the industry average. The company’s drivers receive comprehensive training, including preparation for driving in adverse conditions. Every First Student bus also follows a strict vehicle maintenance program to ensure it is in top-operating condition.

“The safety of children on the school bus depends not only on the bus driver, but other drivers as well,” said Darryl Hill, senior vice president of safety at FirstGroup America, the parent company of First Student. “We ask everyone to join us in keeping students safe by being prepared for the travel challenges that can accompany the harsh winter months.”

First Student offers the following safety tips to drivers, students and parents:

Drivers

  1. Time is on your side. Give yourself extra time when the weather is bad. Drivers who give themselves extra time to get to their destination help ensure a safe and appropriate speed for road conditions.
  2. Watch for school buses. Passing a stopped school bus from behind as it loads or unloads children is illegal in all 50 states. It’s estimated that more than 80,000 drivers break this law every school day, causing close calls and injuries to children. Everyone plays a role in ensuring students get to school safety, so please use caution and maintain a safe following distance.
  3. Be prepared. Make sure the wiper blades, tires, battery and defroster are in good working condition before inclement weather hits. Keep the vehicle’s gas tank full and check window washer fluid levels.
  4. Remain alert. Pedestrians are more likely to be rushing during cold temperatures and could be hidden by poor visibility or snow banks. Remain alert for children who may be hidden or standing in or near the street at the bus stop due to mounds of plowed snow.
  5. Drive for conditions. Adjust your driving behavior to the weather conditions. During winter, this often requires slowing down and increasing your following distance. Anticipate that bridges and overpasses may be icy and minimize acceleration and hard-braking.

Students & Parents

  1. Don’t rush. When roads and sidewalks are slippery, rushing to catch the bus or driving faster to make it to your destination can have disastrous results. Children need extra time to get to the bus stop in cold, windy or snowy conditions. Encouraging them to leave a few minutes early and take their time can reduce the number of falls on slick pavement.
  2. Bundle up. Students need to keep warm at the bus stop, but they also must still be able to see and hear what’s going on around them. When bundling up your child in the morning, make sure he or she still has an adequate line of sight and can hear traffic and other noises.
  3. Watch your step. When walking on snow covered or icy surfaces, watch where you are walking, take shorter, more deliberate steps or do the “penguin shuffle.”
  4. Get a grip. Wear footwear appropriate for conditions. Avoid footwear with slick (no-tread) soles when walking on wet surfaces, snow or ice.
  5. Be patient. School bus drivers are trained to drive in inclement weather; however, snow and icy roads can slow down even the most experienced driver. Safety is each driver’s top priority and extra time may be needed to get from stop to stop.
  6. Hold on. The seemingly simple task of getting on and off the bus can be taken for granted. Always use the handrails!
  7. Be weather aware. Bad weather can lead to school cancellations, delays or early dismissals. Make sure your school has your contact information to receive alerts, and be sure to check your school website or local media when inclement weather is expected.

About First Student, Inc.

As the leading school transportation solutions provider in North America, First Student strives to provide the best start and finish to every school day. First Student completes five million student journeys each day, moving more passengers than all U.S. airlines combined. With a team of highly-trained drivers and the industry’s strongest safety record, First Student delivers reliable, quality services including full-service transportation and management, special-needs transportation, route optimization and scheduling, maintenance, and charter services for 1,100 school district contracts. For more information, please visit firststudentinc.com.

First Student receives ASE Blue Seal of Excellence

First Student busesTen First Student Bus locations have recently received the Blue Seal of Excellence from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Of the 10 properties that received the award, Local 1908 of Buffalo, N.Y., were one of those properties.

According to First Student, the properties that received the award demonstrated dedication to safety and a commitment to setting the highest standards.

The ASE was created in 1972 to improve the quality of vehicle repair and service by testing and certifying automotive professionals. The Blue Seal of Excellence is the highest certification level given by ASE.

SMART Transportation Division represents mechanics and bus drivers on the Buffalo property. SMART TD congratulates the mechanics on their award.

Read more from First Student.

First Student maintenance workers ratify contract

bus2The maintenance workers of First Student Inc. of Bus Local 1908 in Rochester, N.Y. have ratified a four-year agreement. The agreement was approved with 17 members voting for the agreement and one against, for a total of 18 votes. 

A collective effort improved work rules, created a travel time per diem for techs, increasing boot and tool allowance. Additionally, a wage increase of 9.5 percent with an Automated Service Excellence (ASE) incentive program increasing hourly wages up to 80 cents per hour.

ASE are certification tests (diesel engines, suspension and steering, heating and A/C, brakes, preventative maintenance, etc.) taken by mechanics. After passing, the mechanics will receive 10 cents per test with a maximum of eight tests. First Student has agreed to pay for each test and for one retest if the test is failed the first time. Each certification lasts for five years before the mechanics will have to be re-certified. A mechanic can pick and choose which tests he or she would like to take and receive the incentive.

“I would like to give recognition to Local Chairperson Jonathan Connors, with the negotiating committee; Vice Local Chairperson Doug Pearce, Local Committee Secretary Todd Clevenger, Shop Steward Mark Meuse and Technicians Sean Irwin and Chris Divens. Everyone worked long evenings in the effort to bring a superior agreement to the membership in Rochester,” Alternate Vice President-Bus Alvy Hughes said.

General Chairperson Dale McClain passes away

Dale W. McClain, 59, of Buffalo, N.Y. died of cancer June 11 at a nursing home in Buffalo, N.Y. McClain hired out with First Student Inc., and was a member of Local 1908 (Buffalo, N.Y.) since 1990.

McClain served her union in various positions since 2011 when she was voted in as local delegate. In April 2011, McClain became local chairperson for Local 1908 and also General Chairperson for First Student GCA NSB. She served in the position of General Chairperson for two terms. She held all three positions at the time of her passing. McClain also served First Student as a trainer. 

“She was considered one of the top school bus drivers in New York state,” Vice President Calvin Studivant said.

Relatives and friends may gather in McClain’s memory at Evangelistic Temple, 92 Hedley, Buffalo, NY on Thursday, June 18 from 11:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. A memorial service will immediately follow.

Click here to leave condolences.

Kansas City school bus operators, monitors get deal

The school bus operators and monitors of Local 1704 at Kansas City, Mo., have obtained a first contract with First Student, Inc., the operator of school bus service for the city’s school district.

This is their first agreement under SMART Transportation Division representation and Vice President–Bus Calvin Studivant said the employees’ choice already paid off.

“Our members saw their pay raises double, and in some cases triple, compared to what they were accustomed to receiving. They now enjoy more favorable work rules and yearly increases in their charter rates. Their new rates of pay will be retroactive to July 2014,” Studivant said.

“There are also changes to their run-bids procedure, spare drivers received an additional hour on their guarantee, and to better terms were negotiated to their bereavement policy.”

“I thank Local Chairperson Jackie Pearson, Secretary & Treasurer Tonya Stokes, Local Chairpersons Mary Porter, Sharon Harris and Matthew Boyles, and Vice President–Bus Adhi Reddy for their hard work and dedication to seeing this contract through to completion.”

The operators and monitors were formerly represented by the Service Employees International Union, but voted for decertification to seek a new collective bargaining representative. They chose the SMART Transportation Division May 15, 2014.

The local represents approximately 300 drivers and monitors working for the school district.

At the time, Transportation Division Director of Organizing Rich Ross said, “This was a hard-fought campaign, but it was also a well-run campaign. We won, and we won by a large majority because we spent a lot of time out there making our case. The operators wanted representation and chose the best bang for their buck.”

Studivant, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority General Chairperson Waverly Harris (1594) and Vice Local Chairperson Brian Caldwell (1594), CSX and Norfolk Southern new-hire class instructor Justin Humphries, Local 1291 Chairperson Jacob Lane assisted in the organizing effort.

Local 759 member Sheny M. Mendez acting as an interpreter for the company’s Spanish-speaking employees.

 

Pa. School Bus Employees Pick Up Three-year Deal

SMART Transportation Division members employed by First Student, Inc., in Southeastern Pennsylvania have ratified a new three-year contract, retroactive to June 2014

The contract covers SMART members of Local 172 at Darby, Pa., working in school bus operations until June 30, 2017. Of the 92 votes cast, 55 were in favor of the agreement.

Members will receive a three percent wage increase across the board for each year of the contract, for a total of nine percent. Driver’s rates of pay will be paid on all charter work and on all van runs with the addition of a meal allowance for charters.

Also included in the contract is a provision increasing the number of allowable hours worked per week, up to 45. Management had previously discouraged employees from working more than 40 hours.

If during the year, an operator’s run hours are reduced by 20 percent or more, that operator will have the option to bump another driver from service whose hours exceed 40.

Also included in the contract is a provision that requires the company to immediately provide an employee with a debit card matching any payroll discrepancy of $50 or more. If a driver or monitor is displaced from a service run for any non-disciplinary reason, the driver will not suffer a loss in hourly pay.

“I thank Local 172 Vice Chairperson Denise Hall, Secretary Kathleen Sitongia and Chairperson Theresa Costantini for their dedication and hard work on this agreement,” Bus Vice President Calvin Studivant said.

Local 172 members chose the former United Transportation Union as their first collective bargaining representative approximately 10 years ago, when the property was unorganized.

Pa. school bus employees pick up three-year deal

bus2SMART Transportation Division members employed by First Student, Inc., in Southeastern Pennsylvania have ratified a new three-year contract, retroactive to June 2014.

The contract covers SMART members of Local 172 at Darby, Pa., working in school bus operations until June 30, 2017. Of the 92 votes cast, 55 were in favor of the agreement.

Members will receive a three percent wage increase across the board for each year of the contract, for a total of nine percent. Driver’s rates of pay will be paid on all charter work and on all van runs with the addition of a meal allowance for charters.

Also provided in the contract is a provision increasing the number of allowable hours worked per week, up to 45. Management had previously discouraged employees from working more than 40 hours.

If during the year, an operator’s run hours are reduced by 20 percent or more, that operator will have the option to bump another driver from service whose hours exceed 40.

Also included in the contract is a provision that requires the company to immediately provide an employee with a debit card matching any payroll discrepancy of $50 or more. If a driver or monitor is displaced from a service run for any non-disciplinary reason, the driver will not suffer a loss in hourly pay.

“I thank Local 172 Vice Chairperson Denise Hall, Secretary Kathleen Sitongia and Chairperson Theresa Costantini for their dedication and hard work on this agreement,” Bus Vice President Calvin Studivant said.

Local 172 members chose the former United Transportation Union as their first collective bargaining representative approximately 10 years ago, when the property was unorganized.

Bus ops, rail prop vote SMART on same day

rich_ross_organizer

Rich Ross

In representation elections held May 15 on both bus and rail properties, the SMART Transportation Division came out on top, keeping the Organizing Department’s 2014 undefeated streak alive.

Yet another division of First Student bus operators has joined the SMART fold as Kansas City, Mo., school bus drivers overwhelmingly selected SMART over both the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union.

Of eligible voters, 107 selected SMART Transportation Division, 63 selected the Teamsters, 16 selected SEIU and just seven chose to vote for no union.

“This was a hard-fought campaign, but it was also a well-run campaign,” said Transportation Division Director of Organizing Rich Ross. “We won, and we won by a large majority because we spent a lot of time out there making our case. The operators wanted representation and chose the best bang for their buck.”

“We were out near the property every day at 4:30 a.m. to get our message across. The Teamsters came out in force with their parade truck, trying to block us from view, but the First Student operators found us.”

Ross lauded the efforts of Alternate Vice President-Bus Calvin Studivant and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority General Chairperson Waverly Harris (1594) and Vice Local Chairperson Brian Caldwell (1594). He also thanked CSX and Norfolk Southern new-hire class instructor Justin Humphries Local 1291 Chairperson Jacob Lane for their dedicated service throughout the campaign and Local 759 member Sheny M. Mendez for acting as an interpreter for the company’s Spanish-speaking employees.

In Western Michigan, the train and engine service workers employed by Marquette Rail also said “SMART” when they opted for union representation.

With the assistance of Vice President Jeremy Ferguson, Ross concluded another successful campaign in the Great Lakes State.

The Genesee & Wyoming-owned short line operates over approximately 126 miles of Michigan track, primarily on rail route extensions from CSX and Norfolk Southern near Grand Rapids northward to Ludington and Manistee.

Marquette transports chemicals, paperboard, grain, salt, petroleum products and other commodities. It also serves as a storage agent for fleet owners requiring accommodations for seasonally inactive or off-lease rolling stock. Capacity is in excess of 500 railcars.

First Student memo exposes incentives to cut corners

bus2News 4 has obtained a memo from the president of a huge school bus company telling its employees if they want to make extra money they need to cut serious corners.

And that, employees told News 4, is at the root of all the dangerous problems we’ve been uncovering.

Read the complete story at KMOV Television Station 4.

First Student loses arbitration, ordered to pay lost wages

Calvin Studivant

Calvin Studivant

First Student Bus Company/William Penn School District in Darby, Pennsylvania went to arbitration against the SMART Transportation Division and lost. Representing SMART TD was Bus Department Alternate Vice President Calvin Studivant who went to bat for local 172.

Studivant didn’t do it alone; he had help from General Chairperson Theresa Costantini, Vice Local Chairperson Denise Hall and Local 172 Secretary Kathleen Sitongia along the way. Both Costantini and Sitongia testified in the case against First Student.

“First let me say this case was very important. We arbitrated this case on July 30th which caused me to miss the regional in Anaheim,” Studivant said. “Prior to arbitration we had done mediation and the mediator had informed the company that they were wrong, but since mediation was not binding we pursued it through arbitration. I was the presenter of the union’s case and all the aforementioned were witnesses that together hold over 70 years of experience, therefore I was very confident in the case that we presented.”

Arbitrator Thomas G. McConnell Jr., found that the company was in violation of the Collective Bargaining agreement and ordered the bus company to pay it’s employees back-pay.

“I am ecstatic that we prevailed because it represents a substantial amount of money in back wages and wages going forward,” Studivant exclaimed. “First Student delayed us as long as they could but we refused to be denied. It took a year to hear the case and get an award but the victory was worth the wait.”

According to Costantini, Sitongia and management, members could bid on runs based on the run and the time it took to do the runs. Up until 2012 (the union has had a contract with the bus company since 2008, the most recent contract voted in lasts from 2011 to 2014), members were always paid by the estimated time listed on the job plus any extra time it took to do the run.

If a job was estimated to take two hours and 20 minutes but only took two hours, the member would be paid the two hours and 20 minutes that he or she bid on. If it took the driver two hours and 30 minutes, the driver would be paid the full two hours and 30 minutes.

In 2012, it was decided by management, without union approval, that members would be paid the actual time it took to do the job rather than the estimated time. According to this new policy, the member would only get paid for the two hours instead of the two hours and 20 minutes.

Members choose their runs based on seniority and have two concerns when choosing a run:

  1. How much will I be paid?
  2. When will I get home?

When First Student changed the way drivers are paid, this negatively impacted the seniority system and made these questions null because drivers could no longer have a guarantee of how much money they would be making per run.

Management of the company admits that no dry runs are ever done to determine the estimated times and that the company relies on VersaTrans system to estimate the times for them. VersaTrans is a software routing system that defines a bus route based on parameters put in by the District, including bell times and location of the schools. The VersaTrans system then provides an approximate time of how long the run will take.

Although the contract states that hours stated for a job are estimates and not exact times and that hours are not guaranteed, the contract does not state that actual times instead of the estimates would be used for payroll purposes.

McConnell found that since the company had followed the practice of paying the drivers by estimated times throughout the 2008-2011 contract the company would need to have negotiated a contract change in the 2011-2014 contract as precedence had already been set, which they did not do. It was therefore found that the company violated the collective bargaining agreement and was directed to return to their prior practice of paying by times estimated and not by actual time. The company was also ordered to pay members any lost wages due them.

“I would like to thank GC Theresa Costantini along with secretary Kathy Sitongia who kept meticulous records and chairperson Denise Hall,” Studivant said.

Click here to read the full arbitration award.

First Student employees bring Christmas to kids

“First Student bus drivers and mechanics from Local 1908 are so much more than just people who get your children to and from school,” said Local Secretary Joann Ehrhardt.

If you need proof, just ask some of those children.

After a Buffalo, N.Y., School District family of six lost everything to a Dec. 1 house fire, the members of Local 1908 set their holiday wheels in motion.

It all started when Pam Przybylak, the manager at First Student’s Gruner Road Terminal, posted a flyer looking for donations for the family.

Local 1908 members, along with management employees and Buffalo Board of Education bus aides, were suddenly transformed into Santa’s elves.

“Pam gave us a list of the children’s ages and clothes sizes, and people just went shopping,” Ehrhardt said. “We collected presents for the whole family, along with non-perishable food items.”

“Some people collected food from a local food bank, some donated cash and others picked up donated items from one member’s church.”

On Dec. 21, the presents, food, blankets, towels and more were delivered to the family.

“One of the bus aides even bought a Christmas tree, and another bought ornaments, and they actually decorated the tree for them,” Ehrhardt said.

“This truly was collaborative effort,” Ehrhardt added. “Everybody in our terminal contributed.

It’s really nothing new at Local 1908. First Student employees also adopted a family, whose father had recently lost his job, and delivered gifts and food to them. “We usually call Catholic Charities and get the name of a family in need, along with children’s clothing sizes and whether they have boys or girls,” Ehrhardt said. “We do that every year.”

The local also represents drivers in the communities of Cheektowaga and Williamsville and bus mechanics in Rochester.

Ehrhardt said that at a recent local meeting, one of the Local 1908 members asked why their local was never in the UTU News, “so I thought I would send this in.”

First Student employees at Buffalo, N.Y., load the sports utility vehicle that served as Santa’s sleigh
after they decided to deliver Christmas to a family that lost everything in a house fire.