Some of the DeKalb County bus drivers fired for participating in a recent 'sick-out' are demanding that the school district rehire them.
A group calling itself DeKalb County School Bus Driver Solidarity Coalition organized a news conference Thursday morning, just off property near Superintendent Dr. R. Stephen Green's office, announcing the demand.
“We are demanding our jobs back,” said Melanie Douglas, who received a termination letter last week, hours after she'd called in sick.
“I never passed out any pamphlets and papers or anything," said Douglas. "The only thing I did was when Dr. Green called our meeting on Tuesday, I stood up and spoke, and I feel like I stepped on some toes and that’s why I was fired.”
It's not likely the group's action will convince Green to rehire the terminated drivers. Last week, Green went in front of TV cameras and announced the 'sick-out' put children "in harm's way."
Green also said what the drivers did was illegal because public employees are not allowed to strike. That same evening, Green fired seven bus drivers for allegedly handing out fliers about the 'sick-out' or encouraging others to participate.
The 'sick-out' began with 42 percent of the district's 908 bus drivers calling in sick, leaving countless students in the state's third largest school district stranded at the bus stop.
The next day, 224 of the drivers, or just under 25 percent, continued the 'sick-out.' On the final day of the 'sick-out', the numbers were down significantly. Only 63 drivers or 6.9 percent of the district's drivers were no-shows.
Earlier this week, Green and his staff defended their treatment of bus drivers saying they're among the highest paid in the region and that they have a wide array of benefits, even though the employees are part-time.
The school district provided a detailed fact sheet that included the following: DCSD bus drivers are the second-highest paid school bus drivers among their peers in Metro Atlanta school districts, including those in Cobb County, Gwinnett County, Atlanta and Fulton County. DCSD bus drivers have received five cost-of-living pay raises since 2014. In 2014-15 drivers were moved from a 5 hour to 6 hour work day, which resulted in a 20 percent annual salary increase. They received a 5-percent raise in 2017. DCSD bus drivers receive benefits as part-time employees. Benefits include: health, dental, vision, disability plans, long term care, retirement, sick leave, personal leave and vacation leave. The district established a Transportation Leadership Academy to provide opportunities for upward mobility and career progression. District funds are utilized so drivers and monitors can obtain industry certifications.The district announced there would be a meeting between Dr. Green and a sub-group of drivers Thursday, April 26.
The organizing bus drivers said they were not invited to that meeting. They called the invited bus drivers "illegitimate."
“He or his staff kind of hand picked these people," said Douglas. "They’re not representing us.”
School district spokeswoman Eileen Houston-Stewart told CBS46, the superintendent planned to continue his weekly meetings with the sub-group of drivers to begin tacking their list of 52 concerns involving compensation, benefits, and safety. Out of each meeting, minutes will be sent to all drivers to keep them informed on the progress, she said.
Stay with CBS46 News for updates.
Copyright 2018 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.