Families struggle with school bus strike

With the citywide school bus strike entering its third week, families are still struggling to get their children to school.

Elaine Ayala, parent coordinator at P.S. 94 in Sunset Park, said that about 10 families at the school are affected by the strike. She added that the school is supposed to house 200 more students, but because it’s so overcrowded, those kids are being bused – or, at the moment, not being bused – to other schools.

Ayala said that parents are using car service and public transit to drop off and pick up their kids.

“Some are also paying buses that serve the Asian community and cost $1 or $2 to get on,” she added. “They are having the hardest time.”

Since the strike started on January 16, many of the affected students have been late for class, Ayala said. There are also other factors that become cumbersome, such as parents having to drop their kids off at different schools, parents who have to go to work during the day, and lost MetroCards.

Alexander Macias has a child at the Sixth Avenue school who was not able to attend for two weeks. Since his wife is disabled with a back injury, Macias leaves his house in Flatbush at 6 a.m. in order to drop off his fifth grader by 8 a.m. The trek includes taking a bus, a train and walking about 15 blocks in the dead of winter.

He had a message for the striking drivers. “This is terrible. If you don’t have kids, please think twice about what you are doing,” he said. “Why do families like us have to pay the price?”

Tomasa Torres has three kids in three different schools: P.S. 94, P.S. 131 and P.S. 230. She is currently unemployed with a waist injury, so she cannot commute on the train from her home in Borough Park. Every day, she takes a cab, shelling out $70 to make several stops.

“They have to do something about this,” she said of the strike.

Maria Isabel Ariza Martinez takes her nine-year-old granddaughter and her two sisters to school, since their parents must work. She lives in Fort Hamilton, but her grandkids live in Kensington. Martinez said that since the city bus only comes every half hour, she is often late for school.

“This is too hard,” she said. “The school buses have to come back.”

Workers from Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 (ATU), said they have been on strike since January 16 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.”

Dozens of elected officials and mayoral hopefuls have called for negotiations to resume; both the union and the bus companies have expressed willingness to return to the bargaining table but the city has yet to agree. The union had suggested ending the strike with a 60 to 90-day cooling-off period; that too was rejected by the city.

In fact, ATU President Michael Cordiello said, after the National Labor Relations Board on February 1 found the strike to be legal, “The mayor has the power to put our drivers and matrons back to work. All we ask is that he suspend the bids, and is willing to discuss ways to reduce costs within the school bus transportation industry, which the union has shown has nothing to do with keeping the most experienced school bus crews on the road.”

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio unveiled a petition on February 5 with over 500 signatures calling to put an end to the strike.

“Walking away from the table means walking away from parents. Parents need the mayor to get back in the game and get drivers back behind the wheel,” said de Blasio. “Families, especially those of kids with special needs, can’t endure three more weeks of this. It’s within the mayor’s power, and it’s his responsibility, to resolve this dispute.”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.