After a last-ditch settlement effort failed, school bus drivers in the Seattle district have begun a strike, and 12,000 students had to find another way to get to school.
KIRO-TV reports that the drivers want First Student, the district's bus contractor, to provide more affordable health benefits and a stronger retirement plan.
Seattlepi.com reports that Teamsters Local 174, which represents the bus drivers, had staged a one-day strike on Nov. 29 to protest a newly adopted health care plan the union called "substandard."
The union says 85 percent of drivers' bargaining committee voted to reject First Student's latest proposal, which "was outrageously unaffordable for anyone with a spouse or children to insure," the union says.
First Student, which employs nearly 400 bus drivers in Seattle, says its latest proposal included comprehensive health care coverage for all full-time drivers and their families. Part-time workers would have 80 percent of their health insurance premiums covered by the First Student plan, which also included a 401(k) retirement plan and a top wage of $24 per hour.
While the walkout continues, the district is urging parents and students to form carpools or "walking school buses" with neighbors or to use public transit to transport children to school.
"We have been notifying families for months now -- since mid-October, actually -- to think about how would you get your kids to school if the school bus service you rely on doesn't exist anymore or goes away for a short time," says Kim Schamnke, a spokesperson for Seattle Public Schools.