PROVIDENCE— A union representing First Student bus drivers, monitors and aides have voted to strike beginning Wednesday, Nov. 2, following months of contract negotiations.

Public schools in Cranston, Lincoln and West Warwick will be impacted, along with private and specialty schools across Rhode Island.

“Right now, we are guaranteed 20 hours per week, which doesn’t generate enough income to support an individual, let alone a family,” bus driver Lorene Hamel said. “While we do not do this work to become rich, we deserve to make livable wages.”

At a press conference Tuesday, First Student employees said they have not reached a contract agreement since negotiations began in June. The employees are asking for a minimum of 30 hours per week.

Frank McMahon, a spokesperson for First Student, released a statement to 12 News saying that after nine meetings with the union, they’re bringing in a federal mediator and the first meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

“First Student has addressed all items noted from the union as a high priority in the latest proposal,” McMahon added. “We will continue to negotiate in good faith and are committed to working with the union in the coming days and hope to reach an agreement to avoid any work stoppage.”

Lincoln Superintendent Lawrence Filippelli released a statement saying the district was notified about the strike on Monday.

“At this point, it’s a little too premature to make any finite decisions,” Filippelli wrote. “We are hopeful First Student will resolve their collective bargaining issues with all students’ well-being at the forefront of their decision-making processes.”

West Warwick Superintendent Karen Tarasevich noted the bus drivers are employed by First Student, not the district.

“We will remain hopeful the parties come to a resolution so services to the WWPS community are not disrupted,” Tarasevich continues. “In the interim, our team will be working to develop contingency plans in the event of a strike.”

Cranston schools sent the following message to families in the district:

Dear parents and guardians,

You may have heard the news today that beginning on November 2, 2022, First Student bus company drivers, monitors and aides will be going on strike. In Cranston we have our own fleet of buses and employ our own drivers, monitors and aides. Therefore, we will not be largely impacted by this strike.

However, we do have some students who receive their transportation to and from school through First Student, and those students and families will be impacted by this strike. We will be reaching out to families to let them know if their children’s transportation will be impacted and we will be working with families to make sure that their children will have the transportation they need to get to school. If you do not hear from us, your child will not be impacted by this strike.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Sincerely,
The Cranston Public Schools Leadership Team