On Wednesday, bus drivers rallied to be paid all year long.
"What do we want? Year round pay! What do we want? Year round pay!" the drivers chorused.
First Student bus drivers don't want to lose their paychecks during the summer months. Georgia lawmakers passed new legislation that now restricts some school workers from applying for unemployment benefits during seasonal layoffs, and now bus drivers are asking First Student to pay them for the entire year.
The Department of Labor abruptly made this change in 2012, but then it realized it had to go back and get it approved by lawmakers, so the change won't officially go into effect until next year.
The bus drivers are a part of a union called Teamsters, and their contract with First Student, the bus company that serves the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, is up at the end of August.
The drivers are asking First Student to pay them 12 months out of the year since they will no longer be able to apply for unemployment benefits. The drivers have already written up a proposal.
They are also asking the company for, in their words, more respect and to eliminate wage theft. The regional manager with First Student said they treat all their employees with respect and they have a grievance period if anyone has an issue with their paycheck, but the top priority for most of the drivers is to be paid all year.
"Well, we want someone to pay us, and I think they can stretch it out somehow," said First Student bus driver Sonny Hansen. "They are making a profit and it's important that they think about the people that come every single day at three, four, five, six in the morning."
Teamsters and First Student will begin negotiating this contract in June.