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Monday, February 4, 2013

NLRB: School Bus Strike Legal; Drivers Fight NYC Disinformation


Press reports reported in recent days that the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the school bus drivers' strike is indeed legal.

Here are key excerpts from the New York Times' story, February 1, "Labor Board Refuses to Halt Strike by School Bus Drivers:"
The workers were angered when the city announced that it could no longer require private companies bidding for transportation contracts to hire drivers on the basis of seniority and maintain previous pay rates. That, and the expiration of the union’s contract with a coalition of bus companies in December, prompted the walkout.

The private bus companies argued in their complaint to the labor board that they were essentially caught in a dispute between the union and the city.

Federal law generally prohibits workers from striking against a secondary employer to punish a primary employer, but the board said that the rule did not apply in this case because both the city and the bus companies were primary employers.

The chief lawyer for the New York City School Bus Contractors Coalition, Jeffrey D. Pollack, said he intended to appeal the decision.

The ruling mirrored past ones by the board and was widely expected, but will still disappoint some parents who were hoping for an end to the strike, which has been particularly difficult for students with disabilities.
Corinne Lestch, in the Daily News, authored the January 31 story, "Striking school bus union: Blame city, not drivers for high cost of busing: Union says higher numbers of special needs kids, traveling farther from home is why costs have increased, not driver salaries."
The transit workers' union presented its side of the story on busing and costs in New York City:
Specifically, the union pins rising prices on a rapidly growing special education population and an increasing need to transport city kids to special schools outside the city. "Mayor Bloomberg continues to mislead the public on the real costs of student busing, blaming it on the backs of hard-working, meagerly paid workers of Local 1181," said international union president Larry Hanley. "Again, we urge Mayor Bloomberg to come to the table and talk about the real costs of the school busing industry." In a report released Thursday, the union said there are: — 52,000 special education children to transport - up 20,000 students from 1979, the last time bus drivers went on strike. It costs $12,000 to transport each of these students per year. — More than 7,000 bus routes, up from 2,000 bus routes about 30 years ago. The union also points out that more than half of 100,000 general education students who qualify for yellow bus service attend private, parochial and charter schools. About 20% of charter school students ride the buses, compared with 9% of regular public school kids.
Meanwhile, one bus company said that it would remove workers' health benefits, starting Friday, February 1. "Neil Strahl, the president of the Staten Island-based school bus company Pioneer Transportation Corp" said that it will remove striking workers' health benefits beginning Friday.

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