LAUSD Bus Driver Jan Williams on Being a Union Member


Jan Williams with her son, Aeron.

When I first became a school bus driver in 1998, I worked as a contractor. I earned as little as $7 an hour and had to work from early morning until late at night. I missed a lot of time with my family.

When I became a bus driver with the Los Angeles Unified School District, my wages immediately jumped by $10 an hour more and I got healthcare for my family. I also got sick days and paid vacation. The big difference was that I now had a good union job.

I’ve stayed at my job for 17 years. And I know that I don’t have these wages and benefits because the school district decided it was a good idea to give them to me. I have a good job because SEIU Local 99 members have fought for good jobs. And, together, we can continue to fight for more.

That’s why I think it’s outrageous that a few really rich people who have no idea what it’s like to work hard and still struggle to get by, are trying to stop us from sticking together in our union so we can continue to fight for what’s right and improve our lives.

But it’s not going to work. We won $15 in our contract, then we won it in the City of LA and then in LA County. It’s going to be tough, but we’re going to keep fighting and winning no matter what happens with this Supreme Court case – and not just for ourselves, but also for our children and our communities.

I’ve learned that everything we do is so connected. For me, the Black Lives Matter movement got me out of my bubble and more active in my union. As a Black mother, it hurts me to see our babies killed in the streets. As a school bus driver, I see the children boarding my bus who are hungry or scared or just lost. As a worker, I understand what it’s like to struggle on poverty wages. I’ve been there. I also know there’s hope.

That’s why I’m so proud to wear my union purple. It stands for good jobs and so much more. As union members, we are working for justice, working to raise the bar for everyone and demanding equality and opportunity for all.

Inspiring people’s hearts to change is what keeps me going. Our kids are relying on us. We have to win – and we will.


When working people stick together in a union, they gain the power in numbers to improve their jobs and the services they provide. But working people’s freedom to form a union is under attack. A case before the Supreme Court this year called Janus v AFSCME is the latest attempt by big corporations to rig the system against working people. Find out more and fight back by signing a union membership card.

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