Cumberland County school bus drivers pledge to keep calling until they get a living wage

FAYETTEVILLE, NC (WNCN) – School bus drivers in Cumberland County are committed to continuing to call the sick until the district pays them a living wage.

“We don’t plan on running these buses until we see something in writing,” said Sugar Harvey, who has been a school bus driver for three years.

The school district said 101 of the county’s school buses did not operate on Tuesday. It is not known how many students were affected, but schools in the 71st neighborhood of Fayetteville had the most buses that were not running. At least 63 of these were EC buses, which are used to transport students with disabilities and special needs.

Theresa Spearman is one of the EC pilots who declared ill. She enjoys her job, but said her route and workload has increased and something needs to change.

“A lot of people confuse the fact that bus drivers just drive. We hang the wheelchairs. We hang the children on their harnesses. We do everything, every day, ”said Spearman, who has 22 years of experience as a bus driver.

All CCS school bus drivers start at around $ 12.28 an hour. The school board recently approved one-time bonuses for school employees. The superintendent received a bonus of $ 10,000, each member of his cabinet received $ 5,000, while the school bus drivers received a bonus of $ 1,000.

“Some of us have worked here for four, 10, 20 years and still make less than $ 13 an hour,” said Luwinda Binnion, a school conductor who called the sick and protested outside headquarters on Tuesday. of the CCS.

She added, “If we make $ 15 an hour, we probably wouldn’t be here. “

With the bus drivers absent, parents had to find alternative ways to get their children to and from school.

“Not all parents can afford to take time off work and be on their feet to get kids out of school,” said Shirley Henderson, who picked up her grandchild on Tuesday. “So some end up missing school because they have no way of getting them there. “

The district has warned parents it could last until next week.

“We will face each day and do what we can to take care of our students,” said Kristi Harden, Executive Director of Transportation at CCS.

The school board is expected to meet in December to discuss the finances of the district.

“We pray that they will take the lead and help us, which they should be doing,” said Evelyn McLaurin, a bus driver since 2001.

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