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.”
In reaction to the San Francisco Unified School District’s (SFUSD) decision to lay off about 260 school bus drivers effective Aug. 31 on the cusp of the new school year, SMART-TD Local 1741 plans a massive protest in front of City Hall this week.
Drivers, dispatchers and staff were given little notice about the sudden cuts and plan to assemble at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20 to speak out against the cuts, local union leaders say.
“This is unconscionable. Despite preserving the wages and benefits for drivers and staff since shelter-in-place began in March, it is at this critical point that SFUSD has decided they will no longer pay until the buses are rolling again,” Local 1741 President Sharon Chappill said. “The chaos as drivers scramble to maintain health care coverage for themselves and their families, and then switch coverage back a few months later when they return to work, is completely unnecessary and a preventable catastrophe.
“Other school districts in the state recognize the importance of covering their transportation contracts until students are safely phased back to in-person. But here in San Francisco, drivers are expected to wait with no wages and no health care until routes start up in a few months.”
Chappill points out that in addition to the wages and benefit loss for the 260 workers, required training and safety certification for drivers will also be halted and that the school district is using the pandemic to resort to underpaid, non-union workers.
“The district has already given transportation contracts to Zum, a rideshare company much like Uber and Lyft. It is a company that profits off of miscategorizing their drivers as contractors who are unable to unionize,” Chappill said. “The layoffs of certified unionized drivers is an excuse to bring in more underpaid, non-unionized workers. This is another blow to the proud union town of San Francisco.
“We are graduates, parents and grandparents of graduates from SFUSD. We are immigrants. We are working families representing the entire spread of diversity found in the Bay Area. We have served the city of San Francisco for 50 years. And we do not think it too much to ask that the city find a way to provide for us for a few months so that we are able to return to the job that we are proud to do.”
Chappill urges people to assemble Thursday to support the workers whose jobs have been jeopardized by the district’s actions.
“We hope you will join us as we raise our voices to defend the school bus drivers of this city.”
Seymour Kramer, 70, retired alternate vice president, bus – west, died January 20, 2017. Kramer began his career as a bus operator for Laidlaw Transit in San Francisco in 1970. As a member of Local 1741, he served as president, vice general chairperson, general chairperson and delegate.
In 1991, he was elected to the UTU’s executive board and in 1994, Kramer was appointed to the position of alternate vice president, bus – west by the UTU board of directors. He was elected to that position at the 1995 UTU convention. During his time as general chairperson and alt. vice president, Kramer assisted with many contract negotiations and assisted in organizing properties that are still part of the bus department today.
In 1996, Kramer left his post as alt. vice president and later served as a mediator for the California State Mediation and Conciliation Service.
Kramer is survived by his wife, Laurie Goldsmith; daughters Hannah and Sasha Kramer; sister Karen Florman and many friends.
The UTU has gained a new First Transit property in Farmington, N.M., which is now in Local 1687 out of Albuquerque. Contract negotiations have begun.
We also are in the initial stages of organizing some 200 workers on a transit property and a light rail property in Southern California.
I am currently assisting Local 1741, whose members are employed by First Student in San Francisco as they prepare for two arbitrations, including a discipline issue and a workers’ compensation issue. In both cases we are seeking reinstatement of the members.
With assistance from the International Law Department, we recently completed a trial at the National Labor Relations Board over an unfair labor practice at a UTU property in Riverside, Calif., which had been closed without holding negotiations.
We are seeking from the NLRB a severance package for the 135 members who lost their jobs. Final briefs are due in mid-February.
Alternate Vice President Calvin Studivant has been working with Waverly Harris, general chairperson at Local 1574 (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) on numerous grievances where they have settled seven of 10 without having to go to arbitration.
At Local 1715, which represents drivers employed by Charlotte Area Transit System, a driver was reinstated with full back pay after Calvin Studivant defended the driver in arbitration.
In Washington, we are facing a battle with legislation introduced by the House Republican majority attacking transit operating assistance and pushing for privatization that would permit foreign-based operators to enter the U.S. market and access federal transit aid.
This legislation also attacks 13(C) protections of the Federal Transit Act that we worked so hard to protect. They require continuation of collective bargaining rights, and protection of transit employees’ wages, working conditions, pension benefits, seniority, vacation, sick and personal leave, and other conditions of employment, as well as paid training or retraining, when federal funds are used to take over a transit operation.
The UTU National Legislative Office and other transit unions are working to halt this attack, and donations to the UTU PAC will provide additional assistance in this election year.
SAN FRANCISCO — In this city, horribly devastated by HIV and AIDS, 24 members of UTU Local 1741 here are participating in a 565-mile bicycle trek to raise funds for support services and HIV prevention efforts.
Twenty-four members of the school-bus local, under the leadership member Beau Thomson, have participated in the event since 2005.
This year, 28 members of the local have formed their own cycling team, which will ride more than 565 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles over seven days as Team United First, which comes from a combination of United Transportation Union and their employer, First Student.
The team’s goal is to raise $100,000 from contributions. Already, $11,000 has been raised.
Most of the members of Team United First will ride bicycles, but others will serve as roadies, helping riders train and providing support services for the full week of the trip.
“In 2005, I was someone who smoked two packs of cigarettes a day,” Thomson said. “I was overweight and hadn’t done anything athletic in years. This year, I will train and ride with coworkers I’ve known for years. To see them experience this first hand will be priceless.”
Local 1741 President Sharon Wheatley said, “I enjoy helping people, and this ride seems like a good way to join the fight against AIDS, and to experience with some of my co-workers the fulfillment of working together on a fun and productive project. I have wanted to [ride] since 2005, and this is finally the year for me.”
Members of Team United First include Thomson, Wheatley, Marina Acosta, Chris Alexander, Kelly Beardsley, Sheila Bickerstaff, Marilyn Brown, Rosalie Carrico, Gerry Cooper, Lois Correa, Barb Donovan, Kathleen Duffy and Shelby Hall.
Also, Shane Hoff, former member Chris King, Sherrie Klein, David Kush, Terrance Levingston, Rina Luna, Gerardo Martin, Mario Ortiz, John Reardon, Rivas, Renee Roberts, Gabe Rocha, Julio Ruano, Emily Taormina and Dexter Thomas.
To make a donation, visit www.aidslifecycle.com. Select “Find a Participant” and enter “United First” in the team name space.
SAN FRANCISCO – With the San Francisco Unified School District facing a deficit of $113 million over the next two school years, a decision is looming to cut the number of buses to save money.
UTU Local 1741 officer Paul Stein was quick to intervene, telling the San Francisco Examiner newspaper that “any potential cuts would not only affect the contracted bus drivers (UTU members represented by Local 1741), but students themselves.”
Stein was joined by Ellie Rossiter, executive director of Parents for Public Schools, who told the newspaper, “Parents rely on public transportation and school bus transit to get kids to school. It could be the deciding factor in school choice.”