Bus drivers and food service employees voted to accept a two-year contract with the Sumner-Bonney Lake School District Monday night, avoiding a strike by the 83-member union.
School will continue as planned for the district, but some staff members aren’t entirely pleased with the result of the contract.
“Most of our guys weren’t happy, even ones that voted for the deal,” union representative Jim Pyette said.
The union did not release the vote tally.
Under the current contract, those starting out in child nutrition as an assistant make $13.09 their first year and $14.67 their fourth year, while kitchen managers make $17.28 their first year and $18.03 their second year. Bus drivers starting out make $20.26 and climb to $20.87 after 10 years.
Under the new contract, bus drivers will get a 7.1 percent salary increase over two years, with food service employees receiving an 8.1 percent bump.
“We’re very pleased to have reached a union-approved tentative agreement with International Union of Operating Engineers,” said Elle Warmuth, communications director for the Sumner-Bonney Lake School District. “The hard work and dedication of our transportation and child nutrition employees is critical in providing all students access to instruction through safe bus service, and reliable, healthy meals to support academic success.”
To Pyette, it still doesn’t feel like enough.
“The union is very disappointed with the financial choices the district has made, and we sincerely hope they will make wiser financial choices with our taxpayer money in the future,” he said.
The union had been bargaining over a contract for a year and joined Sumner-Bonney Lake teachers in a rally for higher wages last month. The Sumner Education Association members argued that the district wasn’t handing over money given by the legislature specifically for staff salaries in the court order known as the McCleary decision.
Teachers ratified their contract earlier this month, with average salary increases at about 13 percent. Starting next year, base pay for teachers starts at $54,060 — compared to this year’s $53,000 — with salaries topping out at $105,224, up from this year’s $103,161.
Pyette said some of his union’s members were starting to feel like the bottom of the heap.
“We’d like to see what the teachers got,” Pyette said prior to Monday night’s vote. “I think we’re just as valuable, just as important.”