It was not school bus yellow - Benton Harbor school bus drivers donned a different color Tuesday night, with the hopes of drawing eyes to their protest and ears to their plea.
“We wear lime because it’s a crime to privatize our jobs out. It’s not right how the school system does it to the lower people at the bottom. If you’re going to take a cut start at the top,” Jerome Berry, who has been driving a Benton Harbor School Bus for 11 years, says.
The school district recently ran ads requesting bids to privatize those services; the group worries that the school could use the bids against them in contract renegotiations next month.
They say they want to re-sign, but they do not want to be the only ones to feel the pinch as the state's purse strings tighten.
Don Jadgers, who has been a school bus mechanic for over 30 years, tells us, ”We’re all helping to pull the wagon until the money gets tight. As soon as the money gets tight they start picking and choosing. I’m worth it, you're not.”
The bus drivers and custodians are bringing their issues to the streets to drum up public support, but inside the school board says that the groups' actions are premature.
”There are people outside that are upset about the potential outsourcing. That is not on our agenda, it hasn’t even gone to committee; although, I can’t blame them for being concerned about their jobs,” School Board president Daniel McGinnis says of the picketers.
But the issue could come before the board next month.
And come next school year, some kids are hoping they will see the same faces on the buses and in the halls.
”I know them by their names, and I’m used to them, and I don’t want a new bus driver,” Benton Harbor student Marquise Rudley tells us.
”I want my same old bus driver,” student Michael Horn says.