by: Rachel Stockman Updated:ATLANTA —
Atlanta Public School bus drivers protested at APS headquarters over concerns about low wages, and not getting paid for days worked.
A group of about 70 drivers marched from the IBEW building on Pulliam Street, to the district administration building on Trinity Avenue, honking horns and carrying signs that said "drivers are being thrown under the bus."
The protest lasted about an hour and a half, and got the attention of administrators.
"We got drivers crying. You should not want drivers transporting children when they are upset," said Valerie Burrell, a bus driver who has been with APS for 22 years.
The drivers say they haven't received a cost-of-living increase in more than five years.
"We need a raise," said Marvis Stewart. "We need our money. We love the kids but we need to feed our kids too."
Atlanta Public Schools CFO Chuck Burbridge spoke with Channel 2's Rachel Stockman.
"Our employees have not had pay raises for five years – so yes, we understand. We'd like to do more but we are just not in the position to do more right now," he said.
This year, the board sent bus drivers to work one week early, to practice new bus schedules and routes. Some of the bus drivers are concerned that they are not receiving the proper compensation.
"It is important not just to me but to all my co-workers because we are not being treated fair and we should be," said bus driver Stephanie Woods.
Administration officials said bus drivers will receive five other days off during the year to make up for the early start.
"I think perhaps we haven't done a good enough job communicating that there is no loss in pay. There is no additional work days. We are just swapping, a change in the calendar," said Burbridge.
But some bus drivers said early retirements will keep them from getting paid for the early days. They also said they are still concerned about their low wages.
"We are just tired of it," said Stewart. "We can't keep living like this. We have got to make a stand and it is now."