Strike continues for Mat-Su bus workers as continued negotiations remain unscheduled

More workers joined Wednesday’s picket line outside of Durham’s bus yard
More workers joined Wednesday’s picket line outside of Durham’s bus yard
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 6:13 PM AKST|Updated: Feb. 1, 2023 at 9:10 PM AKST
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - One day after Durham School Services bus workers walked off the job, there is no indication of a potential resolution. On Wednesday, even more drivers, attendants, and monitors joined the picket lines formed outside the bus yard.

Kelsey Taylor, a representative for Alaska Teamsters Union - Local 959 said Wednesday afternoon that he had yet to hear from his employer.

“I’m not aware of any contracts from Durham regarding our ongoing negotiations since we enacted a labor action,” Taylor said.

The drivers, monitors, and attendants at the picket line said safety is still their number one priority, citing the bus yard still lacking electricity, broken bus heaters, public address systems that are not installed, and required monthly safety meetings that didn’t occur in December and January.

“There was no way for our members to sanitize and clean the buses in between runs,” Taylor said. “Most of the cleaning supplies had been bought and procured by own drivers and attendants and monitors to clean the buses.”

An updated statement from Durham’s parent company, National Express, addressed the safety concerns by stating pole lights had been utilized to illuminate the yard, block heaters have been ordered but are hung up due to supply chain problems, and that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found the facility to be in compliance after a review in October.

National Express went on to list a number of dates it says the union ignored requests for negotiations, denied company requests for a federal mediator, before it “took a break to review the company’s final offer and never came back” on Jan. 30.

“We welcome all employees who want to come to work and not engage in this strike,” the statement read. “Additionally, we stand ready to meet with the Union at any time to resume bargaining and negotiate a new contract. We want to end this disruption to our service as soon as possible.”

It’s unclear which entity intends to reach out first.

Meanwhile, parents like Carli Garman took to social media to let other parents know she was available to help other families with children attending Dena’ina Elementary School.

“If we can’t work together as a community, then we can’t be a community,” Garman said. “I feel like you need to help your neighbors and if it’s something simple as just picking their kids up and driving them, I mean, school zone’s not that big.”

Drop-offs and pick-ups are already a part of Garman’s daily routine as there is currently no route near where she lives — something she’s been trying to change. Despite lines being congested due to an increase in personal vehicle traffic, she sides with Durham employees.

“I fully understand and support them and what they did,” Garman said. “It was necessary, it was needed, no one was listening, and now you’ve got everyone’s attention. We’re all listening, we’re all ears, and we all want to help.”