Bus drivers’ union wants District 51 to back raises in pay by First Student
School bus drivers want School District 51’s support as they continue to request higher wages and better benefits from First Student, the district’s bus-service subcontractor.
The district pays First Student to pay its drivers, and what First Student passes on to drivers is not enough, said Dean Modecker, an agent for the Teamsters Local Union 455.
Modecker serves as spokesman for Grand Junction-based First Student drivers, who unionized a year ago and have been asking for a pay increase for nine months. Modecker and 78 bus drivers attended Tuesday night’s school board meeting and asked for the board members’ support in negotiations with First Student.
“Nobody wants to go on strike,” Modecker said after the meeting. “We just wanted to let them know our faces.”
Modecker said local drivers are the lowest-paid of any First Student drivers nationwide. The starting wage is $9.75 an hour, according to drivers present at the meeting, and few get more than $12 an hour.
First Student offers a health insurance package, but First Student does not help pay premiums, Modecker said. He and the drivers are asking for at least a 50-cent-per-hour wage increase for first-year drivers and for First Student to contribute 25 percent of the cost of health insurance.
“We understand we’re not going to make millions. We just want a living wage,” Modecker said.
One driver told the board she can’t afford the more than $400 a month it would cost to insure her and her two children. Another said she has driven for years and still gets $12 an hour.
“Times are bad now, but they’ve been bad for 15 years now for bus drivers,” she said.
A driver who did not want her name in print until the negotiations are complete said she loves seeing kids every day and wants to keep them safe. She worries a lean operation and high turnover may lead to unsafe drivers.
“It really rips me up, because a trash person gets more than we do, and look what he carries,” she said. “We carry gold.”