The bus drivers' union will go on strike if the city doesn't commit to job protections for current drivers, representatives from their union told city officials. A walk out could affect more than 152,000 students
By Jeremy Smerd @smerd, Crain's NY Business, Published: November 18, 2011 - 12:27 pm
The Bloomberg administration warned parents in a letter Friday of the “strong possibility of an immediate system-wide, and in our view, illegal, strike" of New York City school bus drivers.
New York City officials on Friday were bracing for a possible public school bus drivers' strike that could strand more than 152,000 students.
The union representing the drivers, Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, is agitating for job protections should the private companies their members work for fail to have their contracts with the city renewed. The Bloomberg administration warned parents in a letter Friday of the “strong possibility of an immediate system-wide, and in our view, illegal, strike.”
The union did not immediately comment.
In a press conference Friday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that because the bus drivers are not municipal employees, the city could not offer those protections even if it wanted to.
“Our concern is the lowest price for the best service,” Mr. Bloomberg said.
Current contracts for kindergarten through high school bus service include “employee protection provisions” that require companies with city contracts to first hire more senior, unionized workers laid off by companies that lose their contract with the city.
The current contract between the city and yellow bus companies serving special education pre-kindergarten and pre-school students is set to expire at the end of the school year.
The Bloomberg administration says the state's highest court bars them from including the job protection provision in their contracts with private companies.
“This is a very difficult situation for the school system and we understand that it may be very upsetting to our students and families,” schools chancellor Dennis Walcott wrote in the letter to parents.
The city's largest contractor, Atlantic Express, said it opposed the strike and was seeking a federal injunction barring the workers from walking off the job.
“It would be irresponsible to strike the whole system because of the concerns of current Pre-K bid issues," the contractor said in a statement.
Though the contracts are for service provided to young children, the strike would affect the entire system. The city said that, in the event of a strike, schools would remain open, but field trips using yellow busses would be canceled.
Families who currently receive yellow bus service would be eligible for free Metrocards via their school's office. For parents of children whose “individualized education program” requires the city to provide transportation from home, “we are offering reimbursement for actual transportation costs,” Mr. Walcott wrote. An IEP codifies what the city must provide for each special education student. Taxi service would be reimbursed; the city would pay parents who drive their child to school 51 cents per mile.
Parents with questions should call the Pupil Transportation Hotline at (718) 392-8855, 311, or go to www.nyc.gov.
From Sam Pirozzolo: Staten Island knows busing.
Reprehensible Mayoral Behavior
I would like to congratulate Mayor Michael Bloomberg for hitting a new low in the city’s school bus policies. After holding a press conference Friday afternoon, approximately 150,000 notices, phone calls and a press release filled with allegations of illegalities and strike threats were sent to parents trying to instill fear throughout the city that a school bus strike was imminent. The mayor has deceived NYC public school parents yet again.
This is what the mayor didn’t tell parents. Next year the contract with the companies that deal with Pre-K, K and special education expires. The union has asked the administration to put some assurances on the table that they will work with them to ensure the bus companies maintain the same type of protections for drivers they have always supported. Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg has shown no desire to work with Local 1181 and he has gone into full attack mode as a pre-emptive attempt to thwart legitimate and lawful negotiations. I have talked with union officials who have told me that they never threatened to strike. Mayor Bloomberg is jumping the gun and intentionally causing parents to believe a school bus strike is imminent. The mayor didn’t tell parents that he held Friday’s press conference before he even put out the bid to other bus companies.
It seems that Mayor Bloomberg would rather allow non-union, untrained bus drivers to drive our most vulnerable children to and from school. The Mayor did not tell parents that both the Senate and Assembly passed legislation that he helped write to protect the seniority of qualified bus drivers. The mayor did not tell parents that he wrote a letter to the governor asking him NOT to sign his own bill into law.
Why would the mayor do this? In my opinion, it’s all about stealing money from the hard working citizens of NYC. I would suggest that if Mayor Bloomberg wanted to save money, I mean a lot of money; he should keep his hands off the backs and out of the pockets of the hard working, struggling middle class. Instead, he should put his hands into the pockets of his own poorly run city agencies like the Department of Education. Mayor Bloomberg would be able to save hundreds of millions if not more than a billion dollars with a few sound cuts. He could easily reduce the numbers of lawyers on the DoE payroll. Lawyers do not educate children. He could save tons of money if he would fire some of the countless consultants. Maybe he could eliminate some of the no bid and exploding contracts that plague our system and steal money from our classrooms. Yes the mayor has plenty of places he could save money yet he chooses to attack and intimidate the citizens of NYC with bogus tales of an imminent school bus strike.
What we are witnessing is the failure of a bought and paid for third term in office. Another concern I have is that the mayor is acting like a skilled magician. Is he distracting our attention away from what must really be going on? NYC is in for continued difficult times; deception like this is not what we need. It is behavior like this that leads to protests like OWS. I think the mayor’s riot helmet may be on too tight.