COVENTRY, Conn. (WTNH) — Parents in Coventry scrambled to get their kids to school Tuesday morning as school bus drivers walked off the job and onto the picket line. Drivers say they want a few more dollars an hour from M&J Bus, claiming it’s what other Connecticut drivers already get.
“It’s not anything special. It’s just the industry standard,” bus driver Albert Tilley said. “We’re looking for help with health insurance and some pension. And, it’s that simple, in a nutshell.”
The strike means families must get their kids to and from Coventry’s three schools. Katie Milkie spent an extra hour getting her child to Coventry Grammar School, and she thinks drivers should get a fair wage.
“These bus drivers are driving our kids to school every day,” Milkie said. “We trust them with our children to get them to school on time. So, we’re really hoping that this ends soon.”
“There’s kids in the neighborhood,” Meg Riding said as she dropped her grandson, James, off at grammar school. “We can pick each other’s children up and take them in or take them out, and I think we’ll manage. It won’t be easy, but we’ll manage.”
Local 671 also represents bus drivers in both Bolton and Stafford. There had been talk about those drivers joining these drivers on strike in sympathy with them. So far, that has not happened. Union leadership says they are saving that as a possibility, depending on how negotiations go. Local 671 also represents bus drivers in Meriden who went on strike Friday. That made for dramatic moments as non-union drivers tried to head out on their routes.
It was a peaceful picket in Coventry. All the drivers joined in, even though they would rather be behind the wheel.
“They’re a great group of kids, and they’re very respectful for our bus drivers, and everyone has a real strong attachment to them, absolutely,” Tilley said. “I’d much rather be driving the bus.”
“I feel like we become their caretakers for the short time that we have them,” said bus driver Kathy Zima. “I mean, we take care of them. We wipe their nose, we fix their backpack, we tie their shoes, all kinds of things like that.”
The union says no contract talks are scheduled. News8 contacted M&J Bus for comment, but we have not heard back.