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NYC school bus drivers strike

BY LINDSEY ELLEFSON AND DENISE ROMANO

School bus drivers across the city went on strike the morning of Wednesday, January 16.

Workers from Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 (ATU), said they are striking because the union and the mayor’s office could not reach an agreement on the Employee Protection Provision, which “guarantees experienced school bus crews are behind the wheel of your child’s school bus.”

“The EPP is directly linked to the safety and security of our children by ensuring the city’s most qualified, skilled and experienced school bus crews remain on the job, and has been a cornerstone of these contracts for over 50 years,” explained Michael Cordiello, president of ATU Local 1181. “Last week we sat down with city officials to present them with reasonable and legal options towards re-issuing bids with inclusion of the EPP. Unfortunately, our words fell on deaf ears, and Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott’s refusal to engage in any sort of productive dialogue regarding the lack of an EPP has forced our hand to strike.”

However, Bloomberg is singing a different tune. “With its regrettable decision to strike, the union is abandoning 152,000 students and their families who rely on school bus service each day,” he said. “Let me be clear: the union’s decision to strike has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with job protections that the city legally cannot include in its bus contracts.”

Bloomberg reported that 1.2 million children were not affected by the strike.

“Our force, however, has got to be on helping the 152,000 [students] who use school buses on a normal day to get to school, and we’re doing that by providing free MetroCards or by reimbursing parents their auto travel expenses to and from school. And we’ve especially focused our help on the roughly 54,000 public and private school aged students with special needs,” he said.

Parents across the city scrambled to find alternative ways to get their kids to school on a cold morning with rain and sleet.

Leila A. had to walk her children to class at P.S. 185 on Ridge Boulevard. “It’s really inconvenient,” she said. “I hope it doesn’t last till the end of the month because its interfering with my work.”

Michele C., a crossing guard, heard rumors from her father, who is a bus driver, that the strike would last for months.  “Carpools are being organized by parents,” she said. “I am more concerned about traffic. I noticed more kids walking and more parents driving. I hope that everyone is careful.”

Captain Richard DiBlasio, commanding officer of the 68th Precinct, offered some words of wisdom.

“There are more cars on the road, more pedestrians on the road, more children on the road,” he said. “Be attentive. Drive slowly. Drive carefully.”

State Senator Marty Golden called upon Bloomberg and New York City Department of Transportation to suspend alternate side of the street parking regulations as part of the school bus strike transportation and safety contingency plan.

“This morning throughout the five boroughs unfortunately, school buses never left their depots and an alternative means of transportation had to be found.  Our families and our city will make sure that throughout the duration of this strike, our students are not denied access to education,” Golden said. “We need a deal that recognizes the hard work of our school bus drivers, and that keeps these transportation costs controlled.”

Councilmember Vincent Gentile said that he “respects” the members of Local 1181 and their right to a fair contract.  “The dispute is simple – it’s about saving money – but the message it sends is absolutely despicable. How we treat those who care for our children reflects directly upon how we value our children,” he said.  It is not the union treating our students as pawns but the administration!”

Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis also called for a swift resolution. “While I am committed to helping facilitate a fair deal that honors the needs of our bus drivers, the fact is all parties involved must come to the table immediately and reach a resolution on this issue,” she said. “Too much is at stake to waste a moment’s time.

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