MINNEAPOLIS — As bus driver shortages continue to impact school districts nationwide, school bus drivers and union leaders in Minnesota are speaking out about conditions that may be contributing to it.
"This can no longer be called a shortage," said Gus Froemke, with Teamsters Local 320. "This isn't a bus driver shortage, it's a bus driver crisis," said Froemke.
Kelly Gibbons, the executive director for SEIU Local 284, says even pre- pandemic, drivers faced low pay, outsourcing and exclusion from unemployment insurance and inconvenient schedules, making it difficult to recruit and keep workers.
"Bus drivers don't get paid in summer, over Christmas or spring breaks," said Gibbons.
"This driver shortage problem has been steadily growing over the years," said bus driver Teresa Jacubowski. "The pandemic accelerated it, and now the public is painfully aware. We can fix this problem, but we have to understand what caused it, the lack of stability for drivers."
St. Paul Public Schools was forced to cut bus routes, and said they still need around 100 drivers.
Minneapolis Public Schools said the district still needs about 50 drivers, even opting for cab services to get some students to school.
A spokesperson from MPS said the district has "accessed transportation services from taxi cab companies for years as a means of filling a gap when bus transportation is not available."
While some districts are still scrambling to recruit new hires, days into the new school year current employees are hoping something is done to retain drivers.
"We really need to look at here's the problem and the solution would be to get people unemployment," said Gibbons.