Driving Down Income Inequality with Pay Raises for Bus Drivers

Miami-Dade County is known for a lot of great things, but shared economic prosperity has not been one of those for the past few years. In fact, Bloomberg recently ranked Miami as the most economically unequal city in America. In fact, in just one year income disparity grew a mind-boggling 16.8 percent. All this while the cost of living for everything from food and housing to education and transportation has continued to climb year after year.

And that inequality could be felt in the ranks of public school bus drivers represented by AFSCME Local 1184. Drivers were leaving to go take positions with area public transit systems or even commuting to neighboring county school bus systems.

“When you lose experienced drivers you are not just losing a coworker, you are losing someone who know how to drive the routes safely, know the schools and of course the kids they are driving,” said Sabrina Small, a 26-year veteran bus driver and AFSCME member.

But on a recent Friday, a huge step to stop the loss of drivers and fight income inequality was made when starting pay for bus drivers went up to $14 per hour.

Small, a Local 1184 shop steward and executive board member, said a pay increase was a central component of the annual wage negotiations with the school board that started back in July and finally signed in November.

“During all the back on forth there was one thing that never disappeared from what we put on the table – that pay raise,” said Small. “We kept members updated and engaged at membership meetings and used the negotiations to grow our voice by signing up more bus drivers as members once they see how hard we were fighting.”

Thanks to the increase in starting pay, combined with the return of step increases won back in their last contract, Local 1184 is really showing what a strong and engaged membership can do to help members share in the economic prosperity they help create.

“The way we look at it is that this is not about the pay, it is not about the numbers, it is about what the income means for being able to take care of your family and keeping your best drivers on the job,” said Small.