Special education bus drivers who work for Portland Public Schools are looking at the possibility of a strike, after their union declared an impasse in negotiations with the district over a new contract on Tuesday.
Beth Blumklotz, a shop steward with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, said drivers are asking for higher wages, and have been working without a contract for more than six months.
“We have drivers who are living with three roommates. We have a driver who lives in a car. No joke,” said Blumklotz.
Blumklotz said special education drivers make about 25 cents less per hour than regular bus drivers, who work for an outside contract, First Student.
But unlike regular bus drivers, special-ed drivers work directly for the district, and are asking to be paid at the same rate as the district drivers who deliver food, Blumklotz said.
“We feel what we do, the service we provide, is more valuable, however, we’ll accept an equitable pay to those who transport the hamburgers, hotdogs and chicken nuggets,” said Blumklotz.
A spokesman for PPS said the district doesn’t negotiate in public, but also said union bus drivers got a larger raise last summer than any other bargaining unit.
Madeline McKee, whose son Henry is a special needs student at Jackson Middle School, said she hopes the district will support its bus drivers with a living wage.
“The idea of losing somebody like Beth who really loves Henry, it’s a pretty harsh reality. I would hate for that to happen,” said McKee about her son’s bus driver.
With the impasse declared by the union, the next step is a 30-day cooling off period. After that, union drivers can consider the option of going on strike.
In the interim, the union has filed for arbitration.
Copyright 2018 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.