It's teacher hunting season!

Monday, January 7, 2013

UPDATED: AFL-CIO: Sign School Bus Driver Bus Petition to Bloomberg / Driver's Quote Shows Why It is Urgent for NYC Teachers to Support the School Bus Drivers and Their Possible Strike

Who do you want driving your child’s school bus – a highly skilled, trained, and experienced driver who knows our children and community, or someone learning on the job? At the end of the day, that is the only question that truly matters to parents regarding the busing of their children to school, and that is why it is so important that we support our New York City school bus drivers and matrons.

For the first time in over 30 years, New York City issued bids for school bus service without inclusion of the Employee Protection Provision (EPP). Although this may simply sound like a labor safeguard, make no mistake, this provision is directly linked to the safety and security of our children by ensuring that the City’s most qualified, skilled, and experienced school bus crews remain on the job. Call the Mayor today at 1-888-833-7428 and sign the petition at

The EPP helps create industry wide seniority and ensure an experienced workforce – union and non-union. This is critical. Although new drivers may receive training, training does not replace years of experience driving on New York City Streets in the third largest transportation system in the country.

This move not only affects the general education population of school children, but would particularly impact New York City’s special education children – children who are most in need of the steadiness, reliability, and consistency that an experienced workforce offers.

We all want to ensure that the City operates as efficiently as possible. The EPP has never been shown to increase costs, but its absence will certainly come at the cost of our children’s safety.

Tell City Hall, our children deserve the best. Keep the EPP.
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Teachers should be supporting the bus drivers. The attack on veteran bus drivers is strikingly resonating with the issues that veteran New York City teachers are facing. Great that the AFL-CIO is supporting the drivers. But what is the (Unity-led) UFT doing?
“They have ridiculous answers to stupid questions,” Hedge said, speaking of the city. “You’re telling drivers and [student] escorts who have been around for years and years…you’re no longer needed. If you need a job, you can go to the new bus companies and apply as a new employee and start all over again.”
Hundreds Gather at City Hall Park in Support of School Bus Drivers' Union Updated January 6, 2013 8:00pm | By Jesse Lent, DNAinfo

MANHATTAN — Moments after a press conference held by Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott calling on the bus drivers' union to stop scaring city students with threats of a strike, hundreds of parents and drivers gathered at City Hall Park to demonstrate widespread support for the drivers.

Organized by several parent groups and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, which represents school bus drivers, the oversized rally was scheduled to take place at 1 p.m. on the steps of City Hall, but was punted by police to the nearby public park due to high turnout, organizers said.

“It was supposed to be a little press conference on the steps of City Hall,” said Sara Catalinotto, co-founder of Parents to Improve School Transportation, who spoke at the rally. She estimated over 1,000 showed up instead. “People really felt this in their bones, so they came out.”

An hour after the large group amassed at the park, however, at least a dozen members of the NYPD began clearing the group out, and shut down City Hall Park.

"The park is closed,” an officer told a reporter for New York. Once it was cleared of protestors, the park was reopened.

Parent Johnnie Stevens, 58, fumed after he sent his son, 10, home, fearing over the strict policing. He called the redirection of the gathered crowd "a violation" of his rights.

“They were letting 10 people at a time into the park,” Stevens said. “There were over a thousand people outside…[The DOE] had their press conference but we can’t even get onto the City Hall steps. What is that? What am I supposed to think of that as a parent?”

The union has threatened to strike in response to new Department of Education plans to accept nationwide bids for more than 1,100 school bus routes — about a sixth of total routes. Current contracts are set to expire June 30, 2013.

Chancellor Walcott, who spoke at 12:30 p.m. at Tweed Courthouse, said an open bidding process for bus routes was long overdue.

“After more than 33 years without any significant competitive bidding for new school-age yellow bus service, we are now issuing a request for bids,” he said. “Last year, we bid out contracts for pre-kindergarten yellow bus service and saved the city over $95 million over a five-year period. We can anticipate significant savings by bidding out these school-age contracts as well.”

Busing costs have risen from $71 million in 1979 to $1.1 billion a year today, according to DOE figures. The union is hoping to secure job guarantees for its 7,700 member workers even if new bus companies are hired.

Jimmy Hedge, a board member for Local 1181, said he snuck into the DOE’s pre-bid conference aimed at bus companies interested in bidding for the routes. Several of the city’s proposed changes, like busing special education students with the general student population, troubles him, he said, but the possible elimination of driver seniority disturbed him the most.

“They have ridiculous answers to stupid questions,” Hedge said, speaking of the city. “You’re telling drivers and [student] escorts who have been around for years and years…you’re no longer needed. If you need a job, you can go to the new bus companies and apply as a new employee and start all over again.”

School bus driver Alvis Newell, 54, fears inexperienced bus drivers will compromise the safety of children, particularly those with special needs.

“You’ve got so many kids to deal with [as a school bus driver],” Newell said. “You have autistic kids, kids with Down syndrome, kids with Cerebral Palsy and you have to be patient with these kids. You can’t just have drivers who don’t have experience dealing with these kids.”

Walcott dismissed the idea that new drivers would put students in harm’s way at the earlier conference. “Seniority doesn’t guarantee safety,” he said.

Read more:

Emily Ngo at Newsday added this information in an article this morning, re-posted at Huffington Post:
Labor officials said they hope to avert a strike and want to meet with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office.

"We're exploring every option," union president Michael Cordiello said. "A strike is a strong possibility, probably not tomorrow. It is an option, but it's not our ultimate goal."

The city has put out the first competitive bids for "school-age yellow bus contracts" in 33 years, and responses are due Feb. 11, school officials said. The average cost of busing a student in the city is $6,900 annually compared to $3,124 in Los Angeles, officials said.

The bids do not include an employee protection provision, which was ruled illegal by the New York Court of Appeals in 2011, officials said.

Cordiello said union lawyers believe the EPP can be included in the bids, but would not detail how. The EPP has been in the union's contract since 1979, the last year there was a strike, he said.

Sara Catalinotto, a lower Manhattan parent who is planning car pools for her autistic 10-year-old son in preparation for a strike, said the city should find a way to legally put the EPP back if officials "care about busing our children."

Here's more analysis by Catalinotto, as published at the NYC Public School Parents blog. The intro:
The real issues behind the looming bus strike by Sara Catalinotto of PIST:
The Chancellor has warned of a possible school bus strike shortly after students return from the Xmas vacation. The issues are not obvious to most parents; here is an explanation by Sara Catalinotto of Parents to ImproveSchool Transportation [PIST].
The Times: The city is preparing for a school bus drivers strike.

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