Some Dalton bus drivers return to work as strike continues

DALTON, Ga. (WDEF) – The Dalton School Bus Strike is continuing for a second day.

Negotiations are still ongoing between the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and school bus company First Student are still ongoing Tuesday evening.

First Student in a statement this morning is saying progress has been made, but the ATU is saying they are misrepresenting the facts.

The President of ATU Local 1212 Lakecha Strickland said, “Like we said before, the Union is on strike for unfair labor practice and retailian is just one of the charges as there are multiple, but we can get in depth about a lot of things but it may not be good for us to be saying on camera.”

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.

ATU held a picket line for a second straight day in front of the First Student bus depot south of Dalton.

Dalton Public Schools (DPS) elected to return to in person classes today, as 8th graders at Dalton Junior High School and the Dalton Academy had to take a mandatory statewide test today.

A spokesperson for DPS told News 12 that the Department of Education requires attendance for these tests to be at 95 percent or above.

They said that they met this goal with 97 percent attendance.

19 bus drivers worked today transporting students, as they were primarily serving the schools affected by the testing.

We watched afternoon dismissal at the Junior High School, and while there was a long car pickup line, it seemed to flow smoothly, as DPS says today went as smoothly as it could have been.

Things don’t appear to be as smooth in the relationship between First Student and the ATU.

First Student told News 12 that 22 provisions had been agreed to between them and the ATU.

However, in that same statement, they claim that picketers were harassing and intimidating the drivers who did work today, and that they called Dalton Police to maintain order.

In a video shared by an ATU member, an Officer explained that blocking the entrance for buses to enter is a violation of Georgia State Code 16-11-43.

That Officer told strikers, “If you block this passage, it will result in a misdemeanor and you will go to jail.”

This particular code was passed in 2020.

The ATU sees this as a misapplication of the law.

One picketer said, “They broke our picket line by insisting that we stop our legally protected right of maintaining our picket line. They interceded it and hands were put on myself.”

Dalton PD told News 12 no arrests were made and no significant incidents occurred, and that they won’t go further into the incident.

The ATU says that First Student’s description of them is untrue.

Strickland said, “We believe in integrity and respect, so to harass their members that’s an untrue statement, that’s not something we do here. Now who was harassed was us.  We’re used to that, it’s a picket line. Our mission here is to stand up to get First Student to meet our demands so we can get back to work.”

The ATU said they would be receiving a new offer this evening.

No word on how these next round of negotiations are going.

Classes are on for tomorrow at Dalton Public Schools.

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