Several Sumter bus drivers return to work after a week of protests

The district says all bus drivers who were absent reported to work on Wednesday and Thursday

SUMTER, S.C. (WOLO) —Bus drivers spent the past week protesting their wages, but several are back on the roads and driving their routes.

The district says all of the absent drivers have reported to work each of the last two days.

Prior to Wednesday, several bus drivers had gathered outside the Sumter School District headquarters calling for a pay raise.

A district spokesperson said the district pays their new bus drivers $10.19, nearly three dollars more than the state minimum rate ($7.70). 

However, drivers who protested called for the starting pay rate to go up to $15 per hour, which they say is an amount that they can sufficiently live off of.

A district spokesperson said the drivers are unable to receive a raise because the South Carolina Department of Education placed the district under a fiscal emergency since February.

The South Carolina Department of Education says a district can’t be released from a fiscal emergency in the same fiscal year it was declared.

Throughout the last week, including on Tuesday and Wednesday, several drivers met with district to address their wages.

In a statement, the district says “the drivers expressed some valid concerns to Superintendent Penelope Martin-Knox last week, and many of these concerns are being addressed in group and individual meetings. Listening is key if we wish to seek resolve. Our bus drivers are an integral part of our team and they are valued.”

Even though all of the drivers are back on their routes, several told ABC Columbia off camera that they deserve higher wages and will keep pushing for them in the future.

Local representatives with AFL-CIO and the Teamsters Local #509 stood with some of the protesting bus drivers outside the district’s offices on Tuesday.

The district’s spokesperson says if bus drivers still have concerns about wages, they are welcome to speak with district officials at the district office.

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