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.”
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.”