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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

UPDATED: NYC School Bus Drivers on Strike Wednesday - No Support from the UFT

New York City School bus drivers and matrons, represented by Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union voted today, Monday, January 14, to strike on Wednesday, January 16. New York City mayoral Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott have already issued a statement against the strike.

(Contact the Mayor today at 1-888-833-7428. Also click
this link to sign the AFL-CIO's solidarity petition with the school bus drivers, under the slogan "Who do you want driving your child’s school bus?")

Andy Newman of the New York Times reports:
New York City’s school bus drivers will go on strike on Wednesday, the head of their union said Monday afternoon.

“While we remain optimistic that we can reach an agreement,” said Michael Cordiello, president of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, the strike is to begin on Wednesday morning.

“This is not a decision we’ve arrived at lightly, but an action we must take,” Mr. Cordiello said.

A strike would require as many as 152,000 city public and private school students to find another way to get to school. The city has said it would provide parents and students with MetroCards and reimburse cab fare for those without access to public transportation.

The central issue in the labor dispute is job protection for the drivers. Last month, the city’s Education Department announced that it would accept competitive bids for 1,100 of its routes — about a sixth of the total — for children with disabilities. If the vendors who employ some of the most experienced yellow-bus drivers lose their city contracts, the drivers could lose their jobs.
The Raw Story reported Bloomberg's statements:
Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the strike “regrettable” and said the union was “abandoning” the tens of thousands of students and their families who rely on school buses on a daily basis.
Schools Chancellor Walcott upped the ante, New York Magazine reported:
"If there is a strike, it's a strike against our students."
However, United Federation of Teachers Michael Mulgrew has issued no statement of support for the school bus drivers, no statement to counter Bloomberg and Walcott's scolding of the bus drivers. A shame, as the issues facing the bus drivers, mainly job security of veteran drivers, parallel the issues facing New York City public school teachers. Whatever happened to union solidarity?

MORE CAUCUS IN SOLIDARITY WITH SCHOOL BUS DRIVERS AND MATRONS The MORE Caucus' website Wednesday carried a statement of solidarity with the ATU and the striking school bus drivers and matrons.
The MORE site carries the link with the picket locations.

For its part, the AFL-CIO has this statement of support at its website:
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 it 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.

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 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.
Teamsters Local 854 represents 1,000 bus drivers, matrons and mechanics for the NY Department of Education. Danny Gatto, Local 854's president, said the Teamsters cannot strike under their contract and will not. However, they will honor picket lines.

Gatto excoriated Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a scathing statement:
There is only one party responsible for the possible job action by unionized bus drivers represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union: Mayor Bloomberg and his administration. For weeks now, City Hall has refused to discuss the job-killing provisions they are insisting on as part of new contracts with bus contractors. It’s almost as if City Hall wants this strike to happen for some perverse reason. The Mayor has shown callousness and a disregard for the working men and women of the ATU that would be surprising from any elected leader other than Mike Bloomberg, who has shown time and again that he has a tin ear when it comes to the needs of working men and women. The best way to avoid a job action is for all sides to negotiate face to face, but City Hall would rather throw the entire system into disarray than sit at a table with the ATU. The workers deserve better, the parents deserve better and the children deserve better.

The Teamsters, which represent about 1,000 drivers, matrons and mechanics, will not go on strike. Our contracts do not allow for it and we will honor those contracts. However, we believe our contracts also allow us to honor picket lines from members of the ATU, and we will not cross their picket lines. In addition, many of our members work in garages with members of the ATU, and without those workers on the job, those garages will not be able to function properly or safely. We trust the City will recognize those safety concerns and not put children or drivers at risk.

We urge Mayor Bloomberg and his administration to work with the ATU to resolve this dispute before a job action is required. Find a solution, Mr. Mayor. That is your job; that is who you claim to be. The children of the City are waiting.
Local 854 is asking parents of New York City school students to call the Mayor's office by dialing 311 and The Schools Chancellor at (718) 935-2000 and demand that they put the Employee Protection Provision back in the bid.

The New York State AFL-CIO points out the mayor is lying when he said the job-protection provisions are illegal. New York City Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez said city officials,
... defended the cost and the legality of including the Employee Protection Provision (EPP) in contracts in Court. The simple fact is the EPP ensures that the best drivers and crews are responsible for transporting our children to school, and is thereby directly related to safety.

Molly Knefel, writing in Alternet, ["What the Looming NYC School-Bus Strike Can Teach Us About the Real Impact of 'Austerity': Those who claim to care about our children's safety often refuse to invest in it,"] argues the dispute is all about austerity:
The battle between the city and the bus drivers represents the supremacy of budgets over quality of life. It illustrates what happens when communities, jobs and families are devalued, marginalized and destroyed while the language of austerity reigns, infallible. And it illuminates the hypocrisy of those in power who claim to care for our children’s safety but refuse to invest in it.

Read the whole thing here.
Valdes-Dapena, the mother of a 10-year-old, told the AP, “I’m concerned about what happens if the drivers lose their seniority, if they’re less experienced. You can teach someone to drive a school bus, but what happens when all hell breaks loose behind them?” She added it takes experience to deal with situations like bus breakdowns, medical emergencies of kids with special needs or traffic, when kids get frustrated or unruly. “The drivers we have now—I’d trust them with my own life,” she said.

Any time a labor dispute like this arises, leadership from the top-down rushes to blame selfish workers for putting children in jeopardy rather than addressing issues of job security, privatization and how children are far more likely to suffer under budget cuts and teacher layoffs, while trying to learn in hostile education environments monitored by overworked, under-paid educators, than they are to suffer during a hiatus to settle a labor dispute.

Mayor Bloomberg perfectly demonstrated the “think of the children!” concern trolling when he remarked, “We hope that the union will reconsider its irresponsible and misguided decision to jeopardize our students’ education.” (Note: This concern for the children was missing when Bloomberg cut millions from after school programs.)

Herein lies the false choice. It’s not the children versus the bus drivers, but a choice between living wages and jobs with dignity, and the forces of privatization threatening workers everywhere.

For more on less-than-stellar job standards, check out Josh Eidelson’s post on Walmart’s “benefits” for veterans.
The New York Times' Schoolbook claims that mob ties are a major factor in keeping school bus costs high. If this is so, why doesn't New York City tackle that issue instead of harangue school bus drivers and their union? Where is the 1980s era Rudy Giuliani, the prosecutor of mobsters?


  1. Surprise, surprise - Unity issues no support! MORE however issued their support.

  2. MORE Caucus ‏@MOREcaucusNYC

    MORE proudly supports the Drivers, Matron-Attendant Escorts, and Mechanics of Local ATU 1181-1061 as they fight...