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Lakota parents come up with temporary solutions amid bus drivers strike

Federal mediator reached out to both sides to try and resolve the contract dispute
Lakota Local School District bus drivers strike union petermann
Posted at 10:40 PM, Sep 04, 2023

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, Ohio — As Americans celebrate the country's working class this Labor Day, parents in the Lakota Local School District are trying to figure out how their kids are getting to school this week as the district's bus drivers continue to strike.

As of Monday night, Teamsters Local 100 president Bill Davis, representing the bus drivers, said a group email was sent out by a federal mediator offering to help reach a contract agreement between the union and provider Petermann Transportation.

Davis said the union has the "utmost respect for the mediator." It is unclear when the meeting will take place, but the union wants to speak with its attorney before responding to the mediator's request. Still, Davis said the union would be willing to meet with Petermann Transportation on Tuesday.

RELATED | Bus drivers strike, halting transportation services for Lakota students

Edward Flavin, spokesman for Petermann Transportation, said there were no discussions over the holiday weekend. Parents who had to figure out transportation for their children when the strike began Friday said they're still working on finding solutions this week.

"Wasn't sure how I was going to be able to work my job and also pick up my children up," said Josselyn Okorodudu, a parent of three kids in the Lakota School District. "Me and my husband really had to come to terms with, well, how are we going to do this? And (we were) kind of panicking because we don't have the support out here that would support us being able to do a carpool situation."

Carpooling this week is a temporary solution for families in the district as Petermann and the union try to come to an agreement on a new contract.

"I think that it's hard to anticipate what may happen because about a week and a half ago, we had no idea that this was even on the horizon," said Okorodudu. "Finding this group of women who have been ... saying they can pick up my kids, drop them off some days and I can do the same for them."

On Monday afternoon, the Cincinnati chapter of the AFL-CIO held its annual Labor Day picnic at Great American Ball Park.

"Right now, I think labor is in the best position it's been in maybe 20-30 years or more because I think people are finally realizing that you need each other you need to have that solidarity to really be represented and have your back when you're in a situation where somebody who maybe doesn't have necessarily your interest over their own profits," said Brian Griffin, AFL-CIO, Cincinnati chapter.

RELATED | Solidarity: Thousands of union members to meet at Great American Ball Park for Labor Day

The bus drivers' strike in Lakota is just one example of labor movements gaining momentum across the country. On Aug. 22, the union representing 340,000 UPS workers said its members voted to approve the tentative contract agreement reached last month, putting a final seal on contentious labor negotiations that threatened to disrupt package deliveries for millions of businesses and households nationwide.

"Our members just ratified the most lucrative agreement the Teamsters have ever negotiated at UPS," Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien said in a statement. "This contract will improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers."

Under the tentative agreement, full and part-time union workers will get $2.75 more per hour, and $7.50 more in total by the end of the five-year contract. Starting hourly pay for part-time employees also got bumped up to $21, but some workers said that fell short of their expectations. UPS said that by the end of the new contract, the average UPS full-time driver will make about $170,000 annually in pay and benefits.

"Labor has gone from being something that was really not a regular conversation, to be very much a daily conversation," added Griffin.

This comes as some employees from the KCVG Amazon Hub in Hebron are working to unionize, asking for things like better pay and paid time off. Last year, Starbucks workers in the downtown Cincinnati location voted to unionize, becoming the first in Cincinnati to do so.

United Auto Workers are in conflict with the nation's three largest automakers over a new contract by Sept. 14. The union is calling for a 46% raise, a 32-hour week with 40 hours of pay and a restoration of traditional pensions.

"I really support workers I support unions I do recognize that I feel like corporations are taking advantage of their workers," said Okorodudu. "I want to support the unions and the bus drivers who deserve to be supported, but on the other side as a working parent, this is really really, this is like a code red situation. My husband and I both work at hospital systems within the city and taking out two to three hours a day to drive your children around even the most flexible job is not going to be able to afford you that flexibility."

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