DALTON, Ga. (AP) — A strike by school bus drivers has ended in northwest Georgia, but school bus routes won’t return to normal for the last week of school.
Union bus drivers voted Friday to accept a new contract with the private company that operates school buses for the Dalton school district after a five-day strike.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1212 members say they won higher wages, paid vacation days, a retention bonus, a new grievance procedure and seniority improvements in a new three-year contract with First Student, based in cincinnati.
“This strike showed the power of fighting for our rights,” local union president Lakecha Strickland said in a statement. “This was one of the first strikes in Dalton in decades, and our members stood strong and united.”
But the district of 7,500 students and First Student said a limited system of consolidated bus stops would continue until class ends Friday. The district and the company said they “do not feel they can consistently service all of our regular routes.”
The union said the drivers went on strike because the company retaliated against union members by taking away paid summer work when contract negotiations failed. The union filed legal charges with the National Labor Relations Board accusing First Student of violating labor laws. The company denies having violated labor laws.
The union said some 40 drivers, bus monitors and mechanics went on strike. The company said about 20 employees crossed the picket lines and drove on.
It is illegal for public employees to collectively bargain or strike in Georgia, but those rules do not apply to drivers for private school bus companies.
District bus drivers voted to join the union in December.
Dalton taught classes online the first day of the strike and then in person.
“First Student wants to thank Dalton Public Schools and their families for their patience and understanding during this process,” spokeswoman Jen Biddinger said. told the Chattanooga Times Free Press in an email. “We look forward to fully refocusing on what we do best, providing safe and reliable transportation.”
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