UniteGPS – Rhode Island bus drivers and aid personnel working for Durham School Services in Smithfield and First Student in Scituate can expect pay increases following collective bargaining agreements facilitated by the Teamsters Local 251 labor union.

In a 29-1 vote this past week in Smithfield, Teamsters Local 251 helped over 30 Durham School Services employees to organize a strike authorization and “just practice” demonstration. In the end, the employer will provide higher salaries, among other benefits, based on the essential roles bus drivers play in the community.

Teamsters Local 251 labor union has helped Rhode Island bus drivers improve working conditions

“This first contract shows clearly the value of workers coming together to collectively bargain to improve their working conditions,” said Matthew Taibi, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 251, in a recent press release. 

“School bus workers have been demanding fair treatment throughout the state. Additional public funding is still necessary to address the short staffing at this location and structural issues in the industry.”

READ MORE: Stanly County Schools in North Carolina increases pay for bus drivers after protests

Meanwhile, about 15 bus drivers in Scituate had similar successes with the Ohio-based company, First Student, the largest student transportation company in the United States. Resulting from the negotiations, Scituate bus drivers with four years of experience who were previously earning $21 an hour for 30 hours a week will see a $5.50 increase, according to Taibi.

Rhode Island bus drivers

As mentioned in the press release, not only does the revised agreement ensure a pay boost, but also better job protection and economic incentives for Smithfield school bus drivers. For example, retroactive six to seven percent raises plus overall wage increases between 24 to 27 percent throughout the duration of the agreement. 

Moreover, a clause within the agreement grants extra funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, in addition to more hours, bonuses, retirement funds, among other new benefits. At the end of the day, this is all about bus drivers exercising their rights in the labor market while demanding that their services to the community be recognized. 

“These workers are part of a grassroots movement of school bus workers who are demanding that they be respected for the essential work they do for communities throughout the state and compensated accordingly,” said Taibi.

More about Teamsters Local 251 

Teamsters Local 251 is an East Providence-based labor union representing more than 6,300 workers in various industries across Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts. In the Ocean State alone, this includes approximately 1,000 school bus drivers. 

Today, Teamsters Local 251’s coverage in Rhode Island includes First Student workers in Providence, Pawtucket, Bristol-Warren, Plymouth, and Scituate; Ocean State Transit employees in East Providence, Barrington, and Coventry; and most recently, Durham School Services workers in Smithfield.

Last year Rhode Island Teamsters succeeded in legislating historic job protections for school bus personnel, including 180 paid days based on the school calendar and due process improvements for workers.