Fed up and frustrated, more than 100 bus drivers stood outside the First Student school bus yard, protesting the fact they’ve been working without a contract since July.
"This is the first negotiation of the school year, so we had a good turnout of bus drivers for the negotiation, and when the management showed up, they saw how many folks were there and they refused to sit down with us," said Ben Phillips, CSEA Local 2001 Communications Director.
The union is pushing for wage increases and issues with safety to be addressed.
In a statement, First Student said it is negotiating in good faith and does put safety as a top priority, but that working with a crowd of 150 isn’t productive or effective.
When the drivers heard there would be no meeting, they called for a strike, prompting the City of New Haven to open the Emergency Operations Center because students weren’t going to be picked up at the end of the school day.
"We’re not taking sides one way or the other. We are concerned about our young people, we’re concerned about their safety, we’re concerned about them having a safe egress to school, well from school, and certainly to school," said New Haven School Superintendent Dr. Reginald Mayo.
Around 1:30 p.m., the strike ended because First Student agreed to meet with the union Thursday night at Hill Regional Career High School, as well as during a regularly scheduled meeting on September 18th. The City is not involved in the negotiations, but it hopes that both sides will keep the students in mind.
"The best thing we can speculate about is to speculate that First Student and the drivers will get into a room and remember we all work for these kids, take a deep breath, be fair with one another, and pick up our kids tomorrow," said Mayor John DeStefano.
The EOC will remain open Thursday night to keep parents informed about the situation and the school district will notify parents if there will be no transportation on Friday.