Special education school bus drivers voted Aug. 14 to approve a new two-year collective bargaining agreement with Portland Public Schools (PPS). The 71 to 9 vote followed over a year of bargaining between PPS and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 757. Settlement was reached when PPS improved its offer even after it implemented what it had earlier called its final offer.
The agreement covers approximately 100 drivers who transport about 600 students with disabilities and special needs. They work 30-hour weeks consisting of weekday split shifts of three hours each.
The new agreement raises starting pay to $18.50 an hour — up from $16.25 currently. The top rate for a driver with 25 years experience will rise from $23.84 to $25.75. A smaller set of raises are retroactive to the June 30, 2017, expiration of the previous contract, meaning drivers will get a check covering those raises for all the hours they worked during the last school year.
During months of school board protests, drivers called for the same pay as Teamster-represented truck drivers who transport food and supplies at the district. The new agreement makes progress toward that, but doesn’t reach parity.
“We really think this is the best deal we could have got to without a strike, but at the same time it’s not nearly as much as these drivers are worth,” said Local 757 spokesperson Andrew Riley.
Local 757 also wanted limits on the district’s use of vans and cars to transport students who can’t travel with other students because of behavioral or discipline problems; they’re being driven by less-well-compensated drivers. The new agreement says the district may discuss that issue in a committee with representatives of labor and management.
The new contract runs through June 30, 2019.