EGUSD Trustees hemmed in by school bus drivers, union on wage negotiations during public comment

During their September 21 meeting, EGUSD Trustees heard extensive public comment
on school bus driver wages. |  

A collection of Elk Grove Unified school bus drivers and union representatives made the most of their three-minute allotments during public comment to paint an unsavory picture of districts' labor practices.

The comments made during the Tuesday, September 21 meeting of the Elk Grove Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting provided them an opportunity to air their grievances with ongoing wage negotiations. By law, the seven-member board of trustees cannot comment on non-agenda items or ongoing negotiations. 

The labor dispute between the 100-plus drivers in Amalgamated Transit Union Local 256 and the district centers on the bus fleet and wages. While many of the school bus drivers speaking stressed their love of transporting district students, Tuesday night's comments focused on wages which were characterized as the lowest in the region.

One of the speakers making an impassioned plea for living wages was Silvia Lopez-Garcia, who asked the trustees if they could live on full-time wages of $2,000 per month. Lopez-Garcia also noted that even though she often spends up to 10 hours a day at work, the district's low wages compelled her to seek government food and medical assistance to keep her family afloat.

I get food stamps, do you hear me? I work 10 hours a day, I care for these children, I put them first, and I get food stamps," she said. "Think about that; you come to work and work so hard that you have to apply for food stamps and people look down at you." 

See the entire commentary below. 

Also speaking on behalf of the workers was ATU Local 256 attorney Anthony Booth who said the school bus drivers' wages were not equitable compared to other district employees covered by collective bargaining agreements. Booth noted district teachers have the second-highest wages in the region, but school bus drivers were at the bottom, and the four-percent across the board increase offered to all collective bargaining units is unfair for the district's school bus drivers.

Stressing that he was not opposed to teacher's pay, Booth noted "teachers with the four-percent salary increase, and there are one, two, three, four, five districts that all pay less [than EGUSD]."  See the entire commentary below. 

Another school bus driver speaking formally during a bargaining unit hearing item noted that the generous pay of school administrators is akin to executives at multi-billion dollar private corporations.

"This is a public school district, funded by tax dollars," Glen Olivera, ATU Local 256 representative, said during his presentation.

Olivera noted that EGUSD Superintendent Dr. Christopher Hoffman's total compensation package is "more than what the President of the United States makes in a year." 

School bus drivers have been working on a one-year extinction that expired on June 30 to a previous contract. Although the ATU Local 256 representatives report they continue to negotiate in good faith, they could invoke a strike if talks break down and would have support from other AFL-CIO bargaining units not to cross picket lines. 

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