Bus drivers on strike as Dalton schools press on

DALTON, Ga. (WDEF) – Dalton Public Schools were virtual today due to a school bus driver strike.

Up to 37 school bus drivers and union organizers picketed throughout the day in front of the First Student school bus depot in Dalton.

Organizers say some of them arrived as early as 4:30 this morning.  

The Amalgamated Transit Union, or the ATU, is currently in negotiations with First Student over various disputes overcompensation and benefits.

They say they are fighting for better work conditions, while parents and Dalton Public Schools figure out how to close their school year.

Lakecha Strickland, the President of ATU Local 1212 said, “What ATU is demanding is that First Student just stop breaking the law. If First Student can commit to stop breaking the law and retailing against our members, we can get back to work tomorrow.”

The ATU is alleging that First Student is illegally revoking certain benefits they have promised.

Strickland said, “They broke about a law about rewarding driver’s work, this is a retaliation charge, rewarding driver’s work, and then turn around after the last negotiation date and taking it back.”

For several of the bus drivers currently on strike, they see this dispute as a difficult struggle to take on as they want to serve the children of Dalton, but say it is time they stand up for themselves.

One bus driver, Jennifer Jones, said, “We’re just wanting them to come back and bargain with us, not keep putting it off and letting things happen, we need to get this contract done now.”

First Student sent News 12 a statement saying that the strike had been put on hold this morning as they continue negotiations with the ATU, and that they were disappointed in the protests in front of the depot.

However, the strikers on the ground did not receive that message.

Strickland said, “First Student haven’t been in touch with us this morning in regard to whether or not we are going to avert the strike or not. Again, like I said, we’re going to be here, and we’ll be on strike until our demands are met.”

For Dalton Public Schools, they say they are effectively caught in the crossfire in this situation.

Superintendent Dr. Tim Scott said, “We’re not directly involved in negotiations, so we are having to get our information from either the union or from First Student.”

One DPS parent, told News 12 that she was disappointed that some kids of Dalton will not be able to go class tomorrow as school buildings will be reopened.

Limited bus routes to Dalton Junior High and the Dalton Academy will be available as they are doing state testing.

For students who are unable to make it physically to class, there will be an option to attend virtually through their Canvas page.

Dr. Scott said, “We’re asking our schools and I know our principals have been working with parents on trying to carpool as much as they can to try to get students to school when at all possible.”

Photo May 15 2023 6 12 04 Pm

A group of ATU members and Dalton Bus Drivers on strike in front of the First Student’s bus depot in Dalton.

Categories: Dalton, Featured, Local News, Whitfield County