Fire the Providence School Bus Drivers’ Union


Justin says, “Fire the Providence School Bus Drivers”. Maybe. Fire their union, the Teamsters? Absolutely.

What Teamsters Local 251 are trying to do to the drivers – whose best interest they supposedly represent – borders on criminal. It WOULD be criminal if they had a fiduciary role with regard to their members’ retirement.

Rhode Island has a long and disturbing history of labor union leaders seriously misleading their members about the affordability and sustainability of the compensation – especially retirement benefits – that they “negotiate”. Labor union leaders, operating for decades on the highly irresponsible principle, “Don’t worry, if we negotiate it, it will materialize, no matter how extravagant it is”, were partially responsible for the necessity of the “landmark” pension reform spearheaded by Gina Raimondo

As irresponsible as the actions of those labor leaders over the years has been, what the Teamsters are doing here is worse. They have somehow convinced their members that they should switch their retirement benefit from a reasonably safe 401K to the black hole of a pension system that Teamsters Local 251 knows full well is insolvent. The Teamsters are asking for this NOT because it is in the best interest of their members, the school bus drivers – it most certainly is not – but because it is in the best interest of the Teamsters union and their pension fund. With this negotiating demand, the Teamsters are trying to divert part of these bus drivers’ hard-earned compensation away from the drivers to prop up their bankrupt pension fund.

Incredibly, the Teamsters actually got the bus drivers to strike to accomplish something that would be very bad financially for them but good for the Teamsters. The Providence school bus drivers are being represented by a union that is actively working against their best interest. Accordingly, their union needs to be fired and replaced by one that at least pretends to act in their best interest, as opposed to one that is openly making a grab for their wallets.

  • Joe Smith

    “Following a self-audit by First Student, the company reported that it
    had failed to make required matching contributions totaling $27,961.84
    on behalf of 110 covered employees. It also reported that it had
    misdirected $34,535.28 in employee elective deferrals into a First
    Student-sponsored plan rather than the Teamsters Plan.

    The plaintiffs charge that despite repeated requests, First Student has
    failed and refused to make the employer matching contributions it owned
    through June 30, 2015; to make the employer matching contributions it
    owned for the period of July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016; and to
    reimburse the Plan for the elective deferrals erroneously diverted to
    the company sponsored plan.” (Laconia Sun, Nov 3, 2016)

    Before assigning irrationality of or misinformation to the bus drivers, let’s look at First Student’s history in other places. First Student is the profit generator for its parent company (220M profit in 2017 almost 10% operating margin) – it’s hard to understand why it is so inept (multiple cases of poor 401K contribution history) in funding an area that they contractually agreed to and serves as the primary argument (although you are correct in the real reason) the union is making to shift to a pension.

    If I’m a bus driver, do I go with the company that has a spotty record of making my retirement contributions or with a pension – problematic as it may be in the long run – that affords me greater reliability in the short run?

    Remember the union is also promising (hoping) that a democratic congress will push through pension bailout . I personally would hope First Student would just walk away, but the company could be in a much stronger position if it wasn’t so penny wise and pound foolish — I bet the 401K of the First Student management gets funded on time and correctly..