RPS mechanics appeal to School Board
Jeremy M. Lazarus | 9/14/2023, 6 p.m.
Bus mechanics who service Richmond Public School buses are appealing to the Richmond School Board for help.
They want the board to agree to provide the funding to replace their valuable tools that were destroyed when the school system’s bus depot on North Side went up in flames nearly 15 months ago. The tools included specialty wrenches, screwdrivers and hammers.
The board has not scheduled a meeting to consider the matter, despite the grievance process that has been underway for months.
RPS paid out fully to those with receipts, but others whose receipts were lost over time or destroyed in the June 2022 fire only got $10,000. About $180,000 was paid out.
In general, the payment fell far short of what each of the RPS mechanics had each spent to build up their personal tool inventories through the years. Required to provide their own tools, the mechanics have said they spent $35,000 to $45,000 apiece.
By one estimate, the mechanics would need about $200,000 to replace their collective losses.
Now unionized, the mechanics filed a grievance this summer seeking greater reimbursement after RPS, which initially promised full replacement, declined to provide any additional funding above the $10,000 per person.
The grievance, though, has been rejected at three levels in the administrative process, according to Keon Shim, organizing director for the Mid-Atlantic Region of LIUNA or Laborers International Union of North America, which represents RPS transportation employees, including drivers and mechanics.
“We have now appealed this matter to the board,” Mr. Shim said, “Our hope is that our elected officials will see the importance of helping our members replace their lost tools. We’d love it if the board would agree to make up more of the difference, if not all of it.”