“Enough is Enough” - First Student Calls for Strike to End After Bus Fires
Friday, October 12, 2018
"This strike needs to end today. We're ready to operate our buses on Monday and restart the level of service the City of Providence deserves and expects. We're ready to welcome back any and all of the drivers who want to get back to work. We will assist with our drivers' safe entrance to our yard and provide access to the vehicles they need to operate their neighborhood routes. Enough is enough - we have made repeated, daily attempts this week to resolve this dispute with the Teamsters which have been rejected or ignored. The students, families, and City cannot keep waiting. We need to move forward on Monday,” said First Student spokesperson Frank McMahon.
First Student and Teamsters Local 251 enter their third week of the strike that has canceled all bus service for more than 9,000 Providence school children including those with special needs.
Latest on Bus Strike
This week saw the ACLU of Rhode Island, along with two other civil rights organizations on Wednesday taking three separate legal steps with the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE) on behalf of students with disabilities who are caught up in the ongoing Providence school bus strike.
The complaints allege that the failure of the school district to honor its responsibility under the students’ Individual Education Plans (IEPs) to provide transportation to and from school violates federal and state laws protecting the students’ rights.
“Although the strike presents a challenge, it does not absolve the school district from meeting its obligations to students with disabilities. The District may not foist its obligation upon parents by requiring they find, and initially fund, alternate transportation. The law is clear on this issue," said ACLU attorney Christine Marinello. "With the strike now in its third week, the District must take proactive steps to meet its legal obligations – in Jeremy’s case and those of other students whose rights are being similarly violated.”
Also on Wednesday, the Providence School Committee moved forward to issue a request for proposals in order to potentially contract with a new vendor.
Presently, the existing contract with First Student has expired and the extension has yet to receive all necessary approvals. Over the past three years -- 2015 to 2017, First Student has been paid in excess of $30 million.
Related Slideshow: 10 Things You Need to Know About Providence School Bus Strike
What is the dispute about?
At the end of the day, the labor fight between the Teamsters Local 251 and First Student is about a pension fund.
The Teamsters want the company to make contributions to the union's pension fund and the British-owned bus company wants to make payments to a 401k fund.
Student First says the Teamsters pension fund is near collapse. The Teamsters say thanks to a major deal with UPS, the fund is stable.
What are parents' options?
For nearly 10,000 children, there are now no alternative transportation options being offered to Providence families.
Is RIPTA an option?
For some older children, RIPTA may be an option if the bus routes align with the student's individual travel path.
Parents should be mindful of the age of the child and if traveling alone on a city bus is appropriate.
Is Uber or Lyft an option?
According to Uber:
"A rider must be at least 18 years of age to have an Uber account and request rides. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by someone 18 years of age or older on any ride.
As a driver-partner in a city that doesn't allow minors to ride, you should decline the ride request if you believe the person requesting the ride is under 18. When picking up riders, if you feel they are underage, you may request they provide a driver's license or ID card for confirmation. If a rider is underage, please do not start the trip or allow them to ride."
What are the options for special needs children?
One parent with a special needs child told GoLocal last week that the city is offering no solutions.
As reported Saturday:
“We're definitely worried, we can't exactly put JJ on a RIPTA bus and say ‘have a good day’ even if we felt comfortable with putting a 12-year-old on the city bus,” Randy Lutz, a Providence parent, told GoLocalProv in an interview.
Lutz's son suffers from Cerebral Palsy -- "a group of chronic conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination. It is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, usually occurring during fetal development; before, during, or shortly after birth; or during infancy."
According to the official statement by the Providence School Department, “We are asking all families of school bus riders to arrange for alternate transportation. Please make sure that you provide your child's school with your updated contact information and the names of adults authorized for school pick-up.”
Where will the Teamsters be picketing?
Nick Williams of the Teamster's Local 251 says the picketing will be restricted to the school bus yard and will not include Providence public schools.
How long will the strike last?
No one knows, but at this stage, the fight over pension contributions seems to be a "death fight" issue between the Teamsters and First Student.
The bus company operates in 400 communities and does not want to set a new precedent.
How will sports and other programs be impacted?
According to the Providence School Department:
How will a strike affect field trips?
When a strike occurs, all field trips requiring school bus service will be canceled.
Will the strike affect athletics?
As we will not have transportation available, we will be canceling all middle school sports during a strike. High School athletes should check in with their coaches regarding revised practice and game schedules.
How will absences be handled?
According to the Providence School Department, "The district will treat the first three days of student absences caused by disrupted school bus transportation as 'excused absences.' Excused absences are still considered absences but they do not count toward student truancy."
Where to get more information?
A problem to report that needs media attention: email to [email protected]
Providence Schools Customer service: (401) 456-9100 x13122
Family and Community Engagement: (401) 456-0686
Transportation: (401) 456-9269
You may also email [email protected]. Questions about make-up work will be handled at the school level.
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