Duval County bus drivers consider strike as talks stall

Roughly 28,000 students have already registered for transportation, according to DCPS

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Negotiations have seemingly stalled between the Jacksonville chapter of the Teamsters Union and the two transportation vendors that service Duval County Public Schools.

Rebecca Cardona, a representative for Teamsters Local 512, told News4Jax on Monday that ballots had recently been distributed to the union’s approximately 1,200 school bus operators and monitors, raising the question of a possible strike. Cardona said the ballots are due no later than Aug 17.

Duval County students are scheduled to resume classes on Aug. 20 and approximately 28,000 of them have already registered for transportation, according to DCPS spokesperson Sonya Duke-Bolden. “This number will change, as registration is still happening,” Duke-Bolden said.

Cardona, who is playing a key role in the negotiations, issued the following statement about the possibility of a strike:

“We continue to urge DCPS and the carriers, Durham and STA, to put in place safe conditions to protect our members and the students upon embarking on sometimes lengthy school bus rides to and from school. School bus drivers and attendants are entitled to a safe work environment and it is the carriers legal obligation to assure a safe work environment. Without such protections in place as of today, Local 512 is exploring all options to protect our members.”

Rebecca Cardona, Representative of Teamsters Local 512

Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene has said following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for social distancing on school buses is not feasible for the district, saying “it would take almost 10 hours to deliver” students if they were spaced according to federal recommendations.

Chief among the concerns of drivers, according to Cardona, is the lack of social distancing in the transportation plan.

The district’s transportation page on the COVID-19 section of its website said in a small, italicized font, “Meeting CDC guidance for social distancing on a school bus is not possible. Because of this, the following changes will be made to the district’s normal transportation processes,” and then lists the precautions the district is taking.

“It’s not acceptable,” Cardona told News4Jax in July. “The guidelines in place say that six feet social distance is a critical portion of keeping yourself safe as well as people around you, so you are not spreading this virus. As the guidelines are set right now, that’s not what’s going to happen on these school buses.”

Neither Student Transportation of America nor Durham School Services responded to News4Jax’s request for comment as of the publication of this article.

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