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Minneapolis school bus drivers vote to authorize strike against district

The union says the district has not addressed safety issues or provided "adequate compensation."

Minneapolis school bus drivers are officially set to hit the picket line if fast-approaching negotiations with the school district fail to produce a new compensation deal. 

"Nearly 100" bus drivers and dispatchers voted unanimously to authorize a strike, according to a Saturday news release from Teamsters Local 320. 

The union says Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) has "not offered its seasoned employees adequate compensation" or addressed safety and retention issues, both of which are "desperately needed during this severe bus driver shortage."

The organization also says that MPS has offered an $0.11 per hour raise to employees, who are "working longer hours with several additional routes in buses over capacity" to serve the district's students. 

“If the District doesn’t increase its economic offer and address the other significant issues we’ve put on the bargaining table we have been authorized to engage in a full-scale work stoppage with active picket lines and ambulatory pickets at the schools,” Brian Aldes, Teamsters Local 320 secretary treasurer and principal officer, said in the news release. 

The two sides are scheduled to meet for their first state-facilitated mediation session on Wednesday, December 1. The drivers and dispatchers cannot legally go on strike until 45 days after that date, the union adds.

Bring Me The News has reached out to MPS regarding the union's statements. 

The vote comes just weeks after school bus safety issues ended up in the local news, with WCCO reporting a recent incident in which a bus was shot at — thankfully with no injuries — and another in which a belligerent parent pulled a gun on a driver. 

The station notes that drivers are also concerned with the spread of COVID-19 as buses have become overcrowded due to staffing shortages.

This past August, Minneapolis school officials warned parents to expect buses to show up late, or not at all, due to said shortages. 

At the time, MPS also took significant steps to expand its driver pool by offering applicants a $3,000 signing bonus as well as compensation during training. 

The problem is not limited to Minneapolis. St. Paul has also dealt with a scarcity of bus drivers, and per Teamsters Local 320, "every independent school district in Minnesota" is dealing with the issue as well.

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