‘Monday is make-or-break’: Trumbull bus drivers gain community support as strike deadline looms
TRUMBULL — Support appears to be building for school bus drivers who say they are prepared to walk off the job as soon as this week.
Residents began voicing their support on Trumbull social media pages and offering to donate protective equipment that the drivers say was promised by Durham School Services.
“The (pages) are really blowing up,” said Mustafa Salahuddin, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1336. “It’s great that people are willing to help.”
Drivers say there is not enough personal protective equipment. They say they are issued one mask per day for as many as three runs and two rounds of disinfecting spray. Drivers have also raised concerns about having to transport students to school even if they refuse to wear a mask.
Drivers also have been working under an expired contract since last year, and Salahuddin said negotiations appear to be at an impasse over compensation.
A person who answered the phone last week at Durham’s Spring Hill Road bus lot hung up when asked for her full name and position. A subsequent callback was not answered.
Marshall Marcus, a member of the town’s Economic Development Commission, contacted Salahuddin shortly after seeing drivers picketing Wednesday.
“I have no skin in the game, no kids in school, but as we protected the town essential workers this spring, we want to make sure the school bus drivers are safe and protected transporting Trumbull kids,” Marcus said.
Marcus and his wife, Barby, donated 450 washable fabric masks, several boxes of gloves, and 115 bottles of hand sanitizer, one for each bus driver and monitor.
“I gifted my kids’ driver two boxes of 10 disposable face masks this morning in case he or his colleagues really aren’t receiving enough supplies,” Christine El Eris wrote on Facebook. “If you don’t want your kid to wear a mask on the bus or in school, keep him home!”
Nathan Clift agreed.
“Bus drivers are part of the backbone of the school system, and they deserve the respect they’ve earned,” he wrote on Facebook.
Salahuddin said it was gratifying to the drivers to see community members stepping up.
“They’re doing what the company should be,” he said.
The company and union have one more negotiating session planned on Monday, Salahuddin said. If there is no progress, the union could vote to strike.
“Monday is make-or-break, there are no other meetings scheduled,” he said. “If we’re still at an impasse, drivers could vote to strike after that.”
Salahuddin promised, though, there would be no repeat of a 2008 walkout when drivers made their morning runs, and then walked off the job. The action left students stranded at school, in some cases for hours, as the company scrambled to find alternate drivers.
“That was completely unprofessional,” he said. “That won’t happen again.”