US school districts blame Amazon for shortage of bus drivers • The Register

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Education administrators in a number of states in the US are struggling to get children to school because they claim their bus drivers are poached by the Amazon online shopping monolith.

Districts such as Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey have all said that the online e-merchant’s seemingly endless thirst for delivery drivers and the consequent rapacious hiring policies have contributed to a nationwide shortage of drivers. school buses, resulting in the cancellation of some services, with students in affected areas resorting to cars, taxis and Ubers to get to school on time.

One student even used a kayak to go to school. Josh Smith, 12, a student at Summit Middle School in Frisco, Colorado, faced cancellation of his bus route after the Summit School District ran out of eight drivers and two relief drivers and was forced to remove seven of its 18 bus lines.

The shortages reportedly initially occurred when schools were closed last year due to the COVID pandemic, putting school bus drivers unexpectedly out of work.

“This is mainly because the jobs were available last year when the schools closed,” Chloe Williams, president of the New Jersey School Bus Contractors Association, said in an interview with Initiated. “People were looking for other jobs and found the demand was there … especially in parcel delivery, everyone was shopping from home on Amazon.”

Many drivers have also been off work due to health concerns related to the COVID virus, as their working conditions mean they are invariably trapped in a confined space with large numbers of unvaccinated children. When the students returned to school this term, a number of drivers were subsequently stricken with COVID, with more than 200 deaths from the virus.

The fact that school bus drivers tend to be older also means that a disproportionate number of workers are leaving their jobs due to retirement.

In Palm Beach, Florida, the school district is currently short of 75 drivers and is in direct competition with Amazon to employ drivers after the retailer. opened a new 96,000 square foot warehouse in the city in 2019. The district’s efforts to fill these vacancies are hampered by the fact that their hourly wages are 12% less than what Amazon can offer.

“What we are seeing is the result of market pressures, plain and simple,” said Aaron Dietrich, a union representative who works with many Florida bus drivers, in an interview with Agitation. “People are moving into higher paying jobs, and our severely underpaid education sector in Florida is not equipped to compete.”

Philadelphia is also struggling to fill vacant driver positions. “Our most critical needs are for teachers, bus drivers, special education assistants, food service workers and student climate staff,” said city school superintendent William R Hite Jr. from a recent press conference live on Facebook. [from around 23:00 here].

To be fair, this suggests that Philadelphia is grappling with just about everything, but the city’s driver shortage has reached such a crisis level that he considered bringing in members of the National Guard driving school buses.

Amazon is currently hiring 4,800 workers in the Philadelphia area, again putting them in competition with local schools for employees.

Hite responded directly to this question: “My question to Amazon is in what ways do they think they could be of use to us … from a logistical point of view,” he said, hopefully. at another recent press conference.

The state of Massachusetts has already activated 250 members of the National Guard to help them solve their own school transportation problems. Problems in the state became so severe that Boston teacher Jim Mayers discovered that a neon-lit party bus with stripper poles had been hired to take his students on a school trip. He tweeted a photo of the bus, which went viral, but then deleted the tweet and replaced it with a sober reflection of the state of the nation’s education system.

While driving for Amazon may not be as well rewarded as driving a school bus, mainly due to the higher overhead costs associated with drivers driving their own vehicles, the ability to work fewer hours, and not have to do anything. facing scuffles on the bus. is attractive to many.

“You have kids throwing things at you on the bus, you have the fights, the bullying, the name calling,” said an anonymous driver, who was considering quitting his school bus job. Agitation. “You have to be a chaperone besides driving. And we don’t get paid for that part.”

A former Connecticut bus driver who left the ship for Amazon was even more succinct in his reasons for leaving: “Packages are way better than kids,” he said. Initiated.

We have asked Amazon for feedback, but have yet to receive a response. ®



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