Lakota Bus Strike: Federal mediator meets Wednesday with drivers, transportation company

The strike is currently in its sixth day.
Published: Sep. 6, 2023 at 10:17 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 6, 2023 at 5:49 PM EDT
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LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WXIX) - This is the sixth day of a school bus strike for Greater Cincinnati’s second-largest school district, Lakota.

A federal mediator is meeting Wednesday with union reps for bus drivers and Petermann Transportation, which has the school district’s busing contract.

“We (Petermann) can confirm that we have a scheduled meeting with both Union representatives and a mediator today to continue bargaining and negotiating in good faith,” a Petermann vice president, Edward P. Flavin, tells FOX19 NOW.

Lakota educates 17,400 students in 23 schools across 63 miles in the northern suburbs of West Chester and Liberty townships, according to the district’s website.

So this strike means thousands of students are unable to take yellow buses to and from school, leaving thousands of families scrambling to find other ways to get them to and from class.

The drivers overwhelmingly rejected a new contract Thursday night and began picketing before dawn the next day.

They are upset about new contract provisions that will allow supervisors to monitor them on video cameras at any time, not only when there is a complaint or reckless driving, and it can be used to discipline them.

Some of the striking bus drivers spoke publicly about it Tuesday night at Lakota’s school board meeting.

Kathy Hacker said she went because she wanted to make sure the community understands “why we are fighting for what we believe is right.”

Under the contract they rejected, she said, “If I didn’t agree with one of my students, or the student didn’t agree with me, Lakota could pull me and place me on a different route which would not be the one that I chose.”

Elizabeth Martin has been driving school buses for 26 years.

But, she said, if the proposed contract is accepted, Lakota “can pull our driving certificate and then we can’t drive here anymore.”

Martin and Hacker said they remain hopeful and hope negotiations will continue.

“We want to resolve the issues. We’re hoping negotiations tomorrow with the mediator go fabulous and we can get back to work.”

When and if this dispute is worked out, drivers in the union must vote on and approve a contract before returning to work.

Until that happens, Lakota only has limited busing for disabled K-12 students, but it is not five days a week. Principals are alerting families when transportation is available.

Some substitute drivers began crossing the picket lines on the first day of the strike to keep buses running for football players going to away games.

There remains no busing for preschool-disabled students and all other students in general in grades K-9, as well as students who take the buses to area parochial schools.

The district doesn’t provide high school busing for grades 10-12.

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