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Seattle school bus drivers warn of another strike soon

caption: First Student is under contract with Seattle Public Schools and serves about 12,000 kids daily.
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First Student is under contract with Seattle Public Schools and serves about 12,000 kids daily.
Flickr / tncountryfan

The yellow school buses in Seattle could come to a halt again. The roughly 400 public school drivers who work for First Student in Seattle have rejected the latest contract offer from the company.

The drivers already went on strike in Seattle for one day last fall. They say they're ready to do it again because they're not happy with the health benefits offered by First Student.

The drivers and their local Teamsters union haven't announced a strike date, but they say it's imminent if they don't see a better offer soon. Union spokesperson Jamie Fleming says the strike would be longer this time.

Fleming: "They could go out on strike at any moment. That strike, if it happens, would be called by the union leadership and it would last until an agreement is reached."

First Student is under contract with Seattle’s school district and serves about 12,000 kids daily.

Fleming says the drivers are getting closer to an agreement, but that unionized drivers still voted down the most recent offer by a margin of 85 percent.

Fleming: "This decision was not come to lightly by anyone because these drivers do care about these kids, and they care about the families, and so they know that this is going to have an impact on families. But at the same time they realize that this is the chance to stand up to their employer and potentially win this fight."

In a statement, First Student says both sides recently had a tentative agreement, and that it's disappointed drivers voted down the contract. The company says it offered to provide comprehensive health benefits and has made significant wage increases in recent years.

Seattle Public Schools officials are telling families to have a backup plan for getting kids to school. They also recommend updating your contact information so you receive the latest bus announcements.

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