School bus

A group of young children getting on the schoolbus

RENTON, Wash. - School bus drivers in Washington state say unions have helped them receive livable wages and fair working conditions.

For the American Federation of Teachers of Washington's local affiliation in Renton, negotiations paid off in its recent contract signing.

Renton president Elizabeth DeCou says health care coverage is one example of how unions are helping. Especially for parents, these costs can be unmanageable.

"Without the union, however, I don't think our wages would be nearly sufficient enough, and I can see where they would drop wages dramatically and take away a lot of the rights of the members and it would be extremely difficult working under those circumstances," DeCou states. "The union is definitely a positive for us."

DeCou says the union also has pushed back on other issues by filing grievances, such as against supplemental routes for drivers that forced them to work long hours.

As the cost of living continues to go up in Washington, DeCou adds that drivers still need help and her union will continue to push for higher wages.

She says some members live one to two hours away from work to make living affordable.

"So, you're talking about people getting up at 3 o'clock in the morning and leaving by 4 to get to work," she explains. "We would like the wages to be moved up, so people can be more self-sufficient, and getting to and from work and child care and putting groceries on the table."

AFT-Washington has about 100 bus drivers in its union.

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