(EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I.) – Teamsters Local 251 and First Student are scheduled to meet today in hopes of averting a work stoppage in Providence, at the request of Mayor Jorge Elorza. The two sides have a very different opinion of what a secure retirement is. Local 251 members have made it absolutely clear from the beginning of negotiations that a Teamster pension is their top priority. They are tired of the company consistently short changing them on their retirement benefits.

“First Student has claimed that the issue of being sued in federal court for non-payment of 401k contributions is a non-factor in these negotiations. This could not be a bigger lie,” said Business Agent Nick Williams. “As a matter of fact, First Student has not paid the required 401k match for Providence employees for 2018. Pawtucket, Warren, Portsmouth and Coventry have similar non-payment issues. Enough is enough.”

Members of Teamsters Local 251 have loud and clearly demanded a secure retirement in the form of a Teamster pension. The New England Teamster Pension fund wrote a letter to Providence members explaining the funding issues. Executive Director Ed Groden wrote in part:

“The Pension Fund began 60 years ago and has never missed a pension payment. The Pension Fund’s largest employer, UPS, contributes about 18 million hours annually on behalf of their 10,000 covered employees. As a result of their recent negotiations with the Teamsters and the Pension Fund, UPS has committed to increase their annual contributions to the Pension Fund by $100 million, nearly double their current annual contribution amount . . . These annual payments are an indication of the confidence that one of the most profitable U.S. companies has in the future of the New England Teamsters Pension Fund. The commitment of UPS and hundreds of other employers participating in Pension Fund will ensure that the Pension Fund will continue to provide meaningful pension benefits to its covered members for the foreseeable, extended future.”

Teamsters Local 251 will strike First Student Providence the morning of Thursday September 27th, if an agreement with First Student is not reached. First Student profits immensely from privatized transportation services, including school busing in Providence, RI. Teamsters Local 251 has been bargaining for a contract for Providence bus drivers.

“First Student, right here in Rhode Island, has blatantly violated the trust of its employees and their obligation to contribute toward retirement benefits,” said Secretary-Treasurer Matt Taibi. “Despite claims to the contrary, Local 251 has regularly investigated and corrected issues with First Student not paying toward employees’ 401k.

“The Pawtucket location had issues at one point dating back two years, the investigation involved Unfair Labor Practice charges filed against First Student. Non-payment issues have been pursued and corrected in Providence as well. There are open investigations at all First Student locations currently.

“These instances involve thousands of dollars in retirement contributions that members have lost out on potential retirement savings. They’ve tried it First Student’s way, and they have been let down consistently. Providence drivers deserve dignity and respect from a very profitable company. Considering the amount of public dollars involved, the company has a responsibility to the public to provide quality jobs with a secure retirement.”