Edmonds School District bus drivers are looking to the community for support as they continue to appeal the district’s decision to cut off their health benefits while they are out of work.
Rows of yard signs shaped like school buses — representing the district’s 175 out-of-work drivers — decorated a patch of grass on 204th Street Southwest behind Quality Auto Center in Lynnwood. The signs encouraged the community to support drivers’ efforts to regain their jobs and health benefits.
A handful of the district’s bus drivers gathered late Monday morning on Highway 99 near the 204th Street Southwest intersection to raise awareness about the issue. Drivers were notified last month that their benefits had been cut shortly after being told they would not be returning to work in the fall.
“We want our benefits back,” said driver Christina Walker. “We want the public to know they eliminated us.”
Initially, drivers were told they were being laid off, which would still make them eligible for health coverage. However, in a letter sent out Aug. 19, the district said the drivers’ positions had been “eliminated,” and with it their health coverage. According to Walker, the terminology used to dismiss drivers has allowed the district to get away with not paying their health coverage previously provided by their job.
“They didn’t lay us off,” Walker said. “They keep using that terminology, but if we had been laid off we’d still have our benefits.”
The district recently announced three drivers have been reinstated to transport students to special education programs and technical programs. However, Walker said that still leaves 172 without jobs.
“That’s not very promising for the rest of us,” she said.
–Story and photos by Cody Sexton