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D.C. officials warn school bus drivers not to participate in sickout

District officials are anticipating a school bus driver sickout Friday and Monday and are warning employees that they can be fired for participating.

More than 1,500 bus drivers and attendants transport thousands of D.C. students with disabilities to and from school each day.

“Your collective bargaining agreements prohibit all work slowdown or stoppage actions,” Ryan Solchenberger, transportation director for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, wrote in a memo to employees Thursday.

Bus drivers and attendants have been protesting OSSE’s plan to reduce their working hours from seven to four hours per day over the summer, when fewer bus routes are operating.

The reduction means a 40 percent pay cut for all employees, said Andrew Washington, president of the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Washington denied that the union has been planning a sickout. But some workers may decide on their own not to come to work, he said.

“Individuals are just frustrated and tired,” he said. “Who knows what an individual may do?”

Light summer workloads are a fact of life in the school bus business. In previous years, the city furloughed hundreds of workers, allowing others to maintain their full-time schedules.

Washington said furloughs are preferable because they allow workers to draw unemployment benefits.

Washington blamed union leader Geo T. Johnson, executive director of AFSCME Council 20, for agreeing to the across-the-board cuts. Bus drivers and attendants are planning to rally at Johnson’s office next week, he said.

Johnson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Emma Brown writes about national education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.



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