by Helen Cox | July 24, 2014
ATLANTA – A year of activism paid off for Atlanta public school bus drivers and monitors, members of AFSCME Local 1644, with an agreement that provides for across-the-board raises and fair pay for a 2013 dispute. In addition, all part-time workers were transferred to permanent full-time employee status, giving them access to much needed benefits and retirement security.
The 2013 dispute was a result of Atlanta Public Schools (APS) withholding pay and/or time off when workers were called in early for training. In violation of their contract, the bus drivers and monitors were not paid for the five days they worked. After an agreement reached this month, all bus drivers and monitors will receive fair pay checks closing out the fiscal year in August.
Members also received a 5 percent pay increase, the first increase in seven years. The agreement to extend permanent full-time status to part-time bus drivers and monitors, some of whom were considered part-time since as early as 2007, means they now have access to benefits and retirement security. Local 1644 plans to implement safeguards to ensure workers aren't dragged along as part-time year after year.
Since last summer, Local 1644 marched on APS Headquarters, the home of Superintendent Erroll B. Davis and to bus yards, held labor-management meetings, helped elect Board of Education members who support them, and hosted political forums to air potential innovative solutions for APS officials and Board of Education members.
This month, Local 1644 sponsored a Town Hall for Common Sense and Strong Services at the Atlanta City Council Chambers, drawing panelists that included Ceasar Mitchell, president of the City Council; Board of Education members Eshe Collins, Jason Esteves and Steven Lee; and Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. Other council and school board members attended, as well as 150 Local 1644 members.
At the Town Hall, Patience Taylor, who's been a bus driver for seven years, said, "We're getting treated with more respect than ever before and it's because we demanded it. We care so much about Atlanta's kids and now we're able to do our jobs without some unnecessary stressors. This is the beginning of a new era in Atlanta and the only place to go is up."
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