The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Maryland School Bus Drivers Fight Back

Nov 22, 2021

Public school bus drivers in a growing number of counties in Maryland have organized job actions like protests, sickouts, and strikes this fall to demand decent pay and benefits, safer working conditions, and in one county, recognition of the union they built.

In Prince George’s County outside D.C. in September, drivers rallied for regular hours. In late October, 100 of rural Calvert County’s 134 drivers did a sickout. At the same time, drivers in southern Maryland’s Charles County struck for three days—some for longer. In early November, dozens of drivers in Anne Arundel County struck and then voted 49 to 29 to approve their new union. A few days later, 89 drivers in Baltimore County did a sickout one day, with 77 calling in sick again the next school day.

Becoming a school bus driver takes time and money, for example to train for and get a special kind of commercial driver’s license, as well as getting a physical, a background check, and getting tested for sleep apnea. All of this together can cost well over one thousand dollars.

But school bus drivers earn less than many truck drivers. And public school systems in Maryland have outsourced around half of the 7,300 public school buses to private companies, which have even lower pay and benefits.