BUFFALO, N.Y. — School bus drivers employed by First Student here and represented by the UTU have ratified a new agreement by a 213-90 vote.

The agreement ratified by members of UTU Local 1908 provides for wage increases retroactive to June 2010, no loss of benefits and improvements to a 401k plan.

Calvin Studivant, alternate vice president — East for the UTU Bus Department, helped to negotiate the new agreement. He praised the efforts of the Local 1908 negotiating team that included Local General Chairperson Dale McClain, Vice Local Chairperson Debbie Orlowski and Local Secretary Geneva Crutcher.

SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. — Members of UTU Local 153 here, employed as school bus drivers by Chestnut Ridge Transportation, have ratified a three-year wage, benefits and work rules agreement.

The agreement provides the drivers with wage increases retroactive to Sept. 1, 2010, improvements in personal leave-day policy, training pay, and bereavement leave. UTU negotiators blocked attempts by the carrier for concessions.

UTU International Vice President Rich Deiser, who assisted in negotiations, praised the efforts of Local 153 negotiators, who included General Chairperson Wilner Baptiste, President Frantz Fils-aime, Vice President Canez Francois, Treasurer Barbara McIntosh and Secretary Wilfred Hatch.

New York State Legislative Director Sam Nasca also assisted with negotiations.

SAN FRANCISCO — First Student school bus drivers here, represented by UTU Local 1741, have ratified a new wage and benefits agreement by a 72 percent majority.

“Our strategy was to keep negotiations limited to economics because the work rules in our contract are the standard by which most other school bus drivers measure their contracts — by any measure, one of the best contracts for school bus drivers in the country,” said General Chairperson Paul Stein. “Also, our health insurance benefits far exceed most San Francisco city workers.”

“Negotiators for the local were able to hold on to our health-insurance plan without premium increases,” Stein said. “We asked for wage increases for ourselves and a series of raises for the office staff and dispatchers that would bring them up to the level of the drivers. The increases we got for the staff was very nearly what was asked for, and was viewed by most as a victory.

“The unity of drivers and staff and the hard work of the members of the local committee who did the hands-on work of negotiations is a tribute to the abilities of working people willing to fight for what they deserve,” Stein said.

BUFFALO — UTU-member and Buffalo school bus driver Yolanda Luciano (Local 1908) is being hailed as a hero — likely saving the lives of one or more of the eight elementary-school students aboard her First Student bus by engaging in a split-second emergency defensive driving maneuver on a snowy street the afternoon of Dec. 8.
An automobile, its driver allegedly fleeing police — and perhaps traveling 100 mph before the crash, according to Buffalo television news reports — appeared in Luciano’s windshield, coming directly at her bus.
Luciano abruptly steered the bus from a direct head-on impact with the blue Chevrolet Impala, but it was still a head-on crash.
“Everything went up in smoke and flames, just horrible,” an eyewitness told WGRZ television news. Luciano helped evacuate the children from the bus.
“She really handled the situation well,” said General Chairperson Dale McClain. “She saved lives.”
Only one student — a six-year-old — was injured seriously enough to be hospitalized with non life-threatening injuries. The driver of the auto also was hospitalized with unspecified injuries.
UTU Local 1908 represents some 600 First Student drivers and mechanics in Buffalo.

UTU bus members know the violence aboard school buses all too well.

The latest shocking outbreak occurred on Long Island, N.Y., last week, when a 14-year-old boy was beaten aboard a school bus over allegations he is gay, according to Longislandpress.com.

The UTU is working with other transportation labor unions and the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO to pressure school districts to provide monitors on school buses and provide more training for drivers in the handling of school-bus violence.

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.”

By Bonnie Morr
Alternate Vice President-Bus

The UTU, other labor unions and the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO are jointly tackling workplace training, discipline and other workplace safety and economic issues on behalf of school bus drivers.

Nationwide, school bus drivers face daily challenges in their work, with their employers and with school bus districts.

Not to brag, but the UTU supplied the most comprehensive list of issues that impact school bus drivers. Those issues reveal a need for more specialized training, better strategies for preventing students from opening emergency exits while the bus is in motion, installation of electronic alerts as to when students unfasten their seatbelts, assigning monitors aboard buses, and implementation of a more realistic agility test requirement for drivers.

The UTU also has taken the lead in pushing for improved job security for school bus drivers. Too often, drivers are furloughed because of subcontracting, and disqualified from service without just cause.

Legislatively, the UTU is lobbying for increased and more reliable public funding for school bus operations, limitations on the ability of schools to subcontract driving responsibilities, and to correct legislation that puts a CDL at risk for driver infractions when operating their personal vehicles. The UTU also is fighting limitations on benefits for part-time drivers.

All these issues were discussed in a recent joint conference call hosted by TTD. Besides myself, UTU officers participating in the call included Alternate National Legislative Director John Risch and New Jersey State Legislative Director Dan O’Connell. A result was creation of a comprehensive list of legislative objectives that will be pursued jointly by the UTU, the AFL-CIO and other TTD-member unions.