Ga. school bus drivers file suit against Dept. of Labor - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Georgia school bus drivers file suit against Department of Labor

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

In the latest step in trying to regain unemployment insurance payments denied over the summer, the Teamsters Local 728 has filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Labor.

The union, which represents 500 Savannah public school bus drivers, cafeteria workers and thousands across the state, filed the suit because the labor department has refused to cooperate with a ruling by the United States Department of Labor demanding the state pay the workers their unemployment benefits. The federal government warned Labor Commissioner Mark Butler to pay the benefits due or risk funding cuts.

Butler spearheaded an effort to change unemployment benefit policies in early 2012 which denied the drivers benefits they had been receiving as seasonal layoffs since the late 1980s. 

Labor commissioner Mark Butler says the bus drivers should not get benefits teachers and other contracted school workers do not get. Teamsters representative Jerome Irwin says the change may have been easier to make if the drivers had been given notice.

Despite the warning from the federal labor department, Butler has so far refused to pay workers the benefits the government says they are due, and has appealed their ruling.

"It started all of a sudden, because nobody knew this was going to happen and all of a sudden, he just came up this year and cut off everybody's summer unemployment. If he'd have given the drivers a warning where they could have prepared themselves they would have been better off," states Jerome Irwin.

The lawsuit is just the beginning the union plans to stage a number of sit-ins and continue protests. 

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