Group of Minneapolis school bus drivers walks off job

Updated: 6:47 p.m. | Posted: 4:37 p.m.

About 20 Minneapolis school bus drivers have walked off the job to protest low wages and undesirable working conditions.

The Minneapolis School District has a contract with Minneapolis & Suburban Bus Company, the parent company of Monarch Bus Service, which employs the drivers. The company notified the district Thursday of the drivers' plans to abandon their afternoon and Friday morning routes.

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One of the drivers who walked out, Abdinur Jimale, said said drivers' wages have been stagnant at $16 or $17 per hour while other companies have raised wages to around $20.

He added the drivers don't get enough hours, are losing routes and operating buses that are too cold.

"If the owners of the company really want to think about their work, they should think about the employees first instead of their budget," Jimale said.

When he and his fellow drivers tried to work with the company to address those issues, Jimale said, the group was told to leave the meeting with the company's leadership.

"The owner was not thinking about these drivers, he was thinking about himself," Jimale said.

Minneapolis School District officials say they are working to make sure the walkout doesn't affect the students.

Director of Transportation Scott James said in a statement the walkout is an employee issue with an outside provider, but the district has managed to cover the drivers' routes.

"We recognize it could affect us and our ability to meet transportation needs," James said. "Therefore, we are working to ensure there is as little disruption as possible so our students arrive home at their regularly scheduled times."

James said the school district requires about 600 drivers to meet its route demands.

Monarch issued a statement Thursday saying the company didn't anticipate any unusual delays Thursday afternoon: "We worked quickly to recruit certified replacement drivers in order to ensure all students are brought home safely."