The following is the official statement from Teamsters Local 251 Principal Officer and Secretary-Treasurer Matt Taibi on the Providence First Student Strike:
“In consideration for the hardship for the children and parents involved with Providence Schools, as well as the request of the Mayor’s office for advance notice, Teamsters Local 251 will strike First Student Providence the morning of Thursday September 27th, if an agreement with First Student is not reached.
“The Teamsters will continue to be ready, willing and able to meet any day at anytime to avoid a work stoppage. If the company refuses to come back to the bargaining table, we are willing to meet at anytime if they force the strike.
“First Student must recognize the value of the bus drivers. Providence bus drivers are valuable members of this community, who safely transport our school children to and from school every day. Many Teamster drivers are parents as well, working a part-time job to support their families.
“First Student is a highly profitable private corporation based in Scotland that derives a significant profit from the Providence area. It is incredibly cynical of this multi-national company to pretend that they are concerned more for the community that the actual residents and their families who live in Rhode Island.
“With First Student, retirement benefits are largely overlooked. Providence Teamsters deserve the ability to retire with dignity, as do all workers. First Student has publicly mischaracterized the retirement issue, and their stance in negotiations is a total affront to the desires of their employees. UPS, one of the most profitable companies in the United States, has recently committed to its continued participation in the fund with a value of more than $100 million in the next four years.
“Good jobs benefit the overall Providence economy, helping families meet their daily needs and hopefully prosper. Providence drivers have helped set the standard for school bus drivers in the region. When bus drivers didn’t have healthcare benefits, Providence Teamsters won healthcare. Over the years, healthcare benefits have significantly improved, and drivers want to continue that improvement. Providence drivers have raised the standard for guaranteed hours of pay, in consideration for working a split shift, and seek additional improvements.
“Providence drivers deserve dignity and respect as the face of the company in safely transporting school children every day.”