COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -Tuesday, Sumter school bus drivers are asking community members to stand with them in support outside of the Sumter School District Office, after complaints of low wages and long hours.
Sumter school bus drivers went on an apparent strike exactly one week ago and already the bus drivers have some additional support, including from the South Carolina American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
The group represents more than 130 unions throughout the state and is a part of a national organization working to improve the lives of workers and workplace conditions.
Some drivers are complaining that working for the Sumter School District means long days and low pay. Job postings for the position list some of the job requirements as: inspecting the bus ahead of leaving for the route, assuming the responsibility of safety for passengers as they load and unload, while also monitoring and reporting any behavioral issues.
Last week, the Sumter School District sent messages to parents warning there could be delays after about 20 of the district’s 90 bus drivers failed to show up for work. School leaders say coaches and teachers had to step in to cover the affected bus routes.
South Carolina AFL-CIO field director, Jennifer Tague, responded to critics who say bus drivers put students and families in a tough position by going on strike.
“It may be an inconvenience, but these people have to realize these bus drivers are not making a decent living wage. They can’t spend time with their families because they’re working a second job just to make ends meet. It’s a minor inconvenience, but with these bus drivers that are standing in solidarity, it’s going to make a better work environment for everyone involved,”Tague said.
This also comes a little more than a month after bus drivers in Orangeburg went on strike reporting similar complaints of low wages and long hours.
“We’re seeing more and more people around the country begin to organize for better work conditions,” Tague said.
She says there is often a stigma surrounding workers who are a part of a union.
“Union is all about empowering the workers, making a safe work environment, predictable schedules, a living wage. They’ve had problems from the beginning of the school year with having – number one – enough bus drivers, not doubling up the routes. These bus drivers are getting paid – on an average – $9.33 an hour to transfer our children back and forth to school.”
In addition to the support of the AFL-CIO, the Sumter bus drivers are also getting help from the Teamsters Local 509, another national union. Organizers are expecting at least 200 people from various union groups when they meet outside of the Sumter School District Office on Nov. 12 at 9:30 a.m.