Workers in Britain have experienced the longest period of wage stagnation since the 1800s, and now face further real-terms pay cuts amid the worst squeeze on living standards since the 1950s. Two-thirds of adults in poverty are now in a working household. For Arriva bus drivers like Dan*, from Hertfordshire, things have never been this bad. ‘The cost of fuel has doubled. You have to do extra shifts just to break even. We are working to live,’ he says, explaining how the cost of living crisis coupled with low wages are causing him and his family significant hardship. ‘I used to be able to give my kids a bit of money here and there. Not anymore. I’ve had to cut back on trying to give them a leg up. Everything is going up.’ Everything, that is, except wages. It’s a familiar story among many low-paid workers in Britain, and the Arriva bus strikes taking place in bus depots across Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Hertfordshire are the latest in a wave of industrial action being taken by desperate workers struggling to make ends meet.
Bus drivers in the Jefferson Davis County went on strike Friday morning after the school board approved paying $25 an hour to emergency drivers as an incentive to help with driver shortage. The item was approved 4-1 at a recent board meeting. “I have zero problem with having anyone that is willing to drive our busses,” said District 2 School Board Member Bobby Wilson. “I do have a problem with $25 an hour. I would like to know why we are doubling the salary for certified personnel to drive versus the $12-$15 for our regular drivers.” According to Superintendent Ike Haynes, the district is facing a severe labor shortage and his solution was to reach out to former bus drivers, coaches, teachers, etc. to help fill in the gaps. “There are several former drivers in the district that have CDLs,” said Superintendent Haynes. “The $25 an hour is simply an enticement in our time of need.”
Yellow school buses are part of the American streetscape, familiar to families across the US and an easily recognizable symbol the world over. But the drivers of the vehicles that shuttle America’s children to and from school are now caught up in the wave of labor unrest sweeping across the US in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Strikes, walkouts, protests or sick-outs among school bus drivers have taken place this fall in many states including North Carolina, New Mexico, Maryland, Florida, Indiana, Georgia Pennsylvania and New York among others. Some school districts have periodically closed schools due to bus driver shortages or changed school schedules to accommodate the shortage. Other districts have raised pay and offered sign-on bonuses to try to lure workers into vacant school bus driver positions.
School bus drivers from the second largest school district in the United States led a noisy protest caravan through downtown Los Angeles on Thursday, demanding federal and state funding to help reopen schools safely amid the coronavirus pandemic. The drivers from the Los Angeles Unified Schools District (LAUSD) were joined by other vehicles as they circled city hall and honked their horns. "Until they get conditions safe, I prefer us to be at home," said John Lewis, a school bus driver, who has been in the job for 30 years.
Boston school bus drivers say, “No school reopening without Union-planned and -designed health and safety procedures!” Teachers, nurses, bus drivers and monitors, custodians, paraprofessionals, food workers demand a seat at the planning table, now! First step: Nurses in every school, bus yard, and food and nutrition facility to ensure frontline Emergency COVID-19 Worksite Standard Operating Procedures. Transdev: Stop the fraud! Hire professional bus and facility disinfecting companies, now!
Workers for New York City’s MTA are refusing to transport people arrested during protests against police brutality in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. A video of a bus driver refusing to transport people arrested during protests in front of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center went viral Friday night. In the video, a crowd cheers a bus driver who appears to be refusing to sit behind the wheel: “the NYPD is using a bus to transfer arrested protesters at the Barclays Center,” @berniebromanny, who shared the video, tweeted. “However, the bus driver refused to drive it.” The video was viewed more than a million times in just over an hour.
With protests erupting all over Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, cops are attempting to arrest protesters in mass. However, some bus drivers in Minneapolis are refusing to use their buses to transport protestors to jail. “As a transit worker and union member, I refuse to transport my class and radical youth,” Minneapolis bus driver Adam Burch told Payday. “An injury to one is an injury to all. The police murdered George Floyd and the protest against is completely justified and should continue until their demands are met.” While it would be illegal for Burch’s union to call for a wildcat strike, his local union ATU Local 1005 did issue a statement of solidarity with the protestors. “In ATU, we have a saying “NOT ONE MORE” when it comes to driver assaults, which in some cases have led to members being murdered while doing their job,” said the union in a statement.
All eyes are on essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic, as individuals, companies and even the federal government make a point to thank them for their heroic action: working. Frontline workers have received plenty of symbolic accolades, but many are working without proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and hazard pay, and are scared for their health and safety. Public transit workers, who shuttle other essential workers to and from work, have been sounding the alarm about poor safety standards at their jobs since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), which represents 200,000 workers in the United States and Canada, told In These Times that nearly 1,000 of its members have been infected with coronavirus, and almost 40 have died.
Earlier today, Trump announced that he intended to use the power of the federal government and the Defense Production Act to keep meat processing plants open throughout the United States. The move comes as massive outbreaks with hundreds of workers have hit meatpacking plants throughout the U.S. As a result, scores of meatpacking plants have closed because of outbreaks. Strikes and mass sickouts at a dozen meatpacking plants throughout the U.S. have led to the closure of additional plants. It’s unclear how Trump intends to use the Defense Production Act to force meat packing processing workers back into the assembly line. Organized labor immediately denounced the move. “We only wish that this administration cared as much about the lives of working people as it does about meat, pork, and poultry products."
On March 16, elected officers of United Steelworkers Local 8751, the Boston School Bus Drivers Union, conducted mass meetings in the bus yards over loudspeakers with hundreds of drivers, monitors, dispatchers and support staff. They presented a multipart agreement reached with Transdev — a division of the Paris-based transnational conglomerate Veolia, which employs over 170,000 workers in 104 countries and specializes in contracting with neoliberal governments to privatize water, waste, energy and transportation.