The local school board in Mississippi's Jefferson Davis County was forced to raise drivers' base pay after they went on strike.
School bus drivers in Mississippi's Jefferson Davis County declared a strike on Friday. This was a day after the local school board approved paying $25 an hour to emergency drivers as an incentive to help with the area's ongoing driver shortage. The vote was passed four to one, with District 2 School Board Member Bobby Wilson being the sole vote against the motion. The decision alienated regular school bus drivers who only earn $12 to $15 an hour for performing the same job. Within an hour of declaring a strike, drivers were able to secure a pay increase. Now, all drivers in the school district will receive $20 an hour, Magnolia State Live reports.
School bus drivers in Mississippi went on strike for ONE hour and secured a pay increase of 5+ dollars an hour.https://t.co/RPXNEQwKZX— R Givan (@rkgwork) January 26, 2022
As per Superintendent Ike Haynes, the district was forced to hire former bus drivers, coaches, teachers, and others to help fill in the gap left by a severe labor shortage. "I have zero problems with having anyone that is willing to drive our busses," Wilson stated in response to the motion. "I do have a problem with $25 an hour. I would like to know why we are doubling the salary for certified personnel to drive versus the $12 to $15 for our regular drivers. I stand with our bus drivers, I vote no."
Bus Drivers Go on Strike to Protest Low Pay in Rural Mississippi School District. They are driving your children!https://t.co/a3AnmS4Ugh— Carol Driscoll (@CarolADriscoll) January 27, 2022
The following day, school bus drivers declared a strike. Haynes met with the group an hour into the strike and the school board called for a special meeting in order to rectify the situation that same evening. Haynes affirmed at the meeting, "This is not it. I want to make sure I point this out. We have to move up. No employee in this district should make less than $10 an hour. We need to move up from there and then continue to move, but work within the constraints of our budget. It doesn’t matter what job they hold, every employee, their job and what they do goes to the greater good and we are blessed across the board. We are here tonight to make sure that our bus drivers in this district, many of which have worked here for over 11 years, feel respected and compensated."
Therefore, Haynes recommended the board increase current bus drivers’ pay to $20 an hour. The motion was passed unanimously. Nonetheless, he believed the strike was unnecessary. He also clarified that the strike did not cause major issues. "The parents stepped up and dropped off kids," Haynes shared. "Every driver drove their route, every student that was going to school today went to school and every teacher that had an opportunity to teach, taught."
Meanwhile, School Board President Shonda Ard Burre reaffirmed the board's commitment to its workers. She said, "Do know that we care about every employee in this district. We are going to work hard to ensure that every employee in the power of our budget will be able to get what they so deserve. We are going to try hard." This is but one example of how collective organizing can lead to actionable change.