• BREAKING NEWS Shelter in place lifted after prisoner captured

School bus drivers strike in New York City

January 16, 2013 8:20:31 PM PST
More than 8,000 New York City school bus drivers and aides went on strike over job protection Wednesday morning, leaving some 152,000 students, many disabled, trying to find other ways to get to school.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the strike started at 6 a.m. About 200 bus drivers and bus matrons, who help kids on and off buses, were assembled on picket lines in Queens.

Union head Michael Cordiello told a news conference that the drivers will strike until Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city agree to put a job security clause back into their contract.

"I came to urge the mayor to resolve this strike," said Cordiello, president of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union. "It is within his power to do so."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says police were called after pickets blocked gates while trying to keep school buses from leaving their parking areas.

Bloomberg said at a news conference that four bus companies called police. The mayor called the incidents "an outrage." He said the city will not permit what he calls "reprehensible conduct."

Parents used subways, carpools and other alternatives to get their children to school, hitting slippery roads as sleet turned to rain around the city and temperatures were at or above freezing.

Wednesday's walkout was by the largest bus drivers' union; some bus routes served by other unions were operating. The city Department of Education said approximately 3,000 bus routes out of 7,700 total were running.

Most of the city's roughly 1.1 million public school students take public transportation or walk to school.

Walcott said that preliminary figures show attendance was 88.5 percent on Wednesday. He says that's just 1 percent less than average for January.

Those who rely on the buses include 54,000 special education students and others who live far from schools or transportation. They also include students who attend specialized school programs outside of their neighborhoods.

The city has put its contracts with private bus companies up for bid, aiming to cut costs. Local 1181 says drivers could suddenly lose their jobs when contracts expire in June.

Seeking a speedy end to the strike, a consortium of 20 bus companies filed two complaints with the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday accusing the union of waging an unlawful secondary strike and of not bargaining in good faith.

"We are asking the NLRB for an immediate ruling," said Carolyn Daly, a spokeswoman for the bus companies.

In an industrial part of Queens' Ridgewood neighborhood, several dozen union members showed up to stand in the cold rain in front of the Amboy Bus Company.

"Union! Power!" they chanted, pumping their fists into the air.

Driver Edwin Beniquez said Bloomberg "wants to put out these bids to pay less, below living wages, but he'll end up with less experienced drivers."

The city planned to distribute transit cards to students who can take buses and subways and to reimburse parents who would have to drive or take taxis.

The city doesn't directly hire the bus drivers and matrons, who work for private companies that have city contracts. The workers make an average of about $35,000 a year, with a driver starting at $14 an hour and potentially making as much as $29 an hour over time, according to Cordiello.

Bloomberg has said the city must seek competitive bids to save money.

The union sought job protections for current drivers in the new contracts. The city said that the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, has barred it from including such provisions because of competitive bidding laws; the union said that's not so.

CLICK HERE FOR 7 THINGS TO KNOW DURING THE STRIKE

Summary and links:

The city is taking the following steps for families of students who currently receive yellow bus service:

  • All students who currently receive yellow bus service may receive a MetroCard. MetroCards should be requested through the school's general office. The DOE has informed the Metropolitan Transit Authority that it may need to accommodate additional riders.

  • Parents of pre-school and school-age children with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and require transportation from their home directly to their school, as well as parents of general education children in grades K-2, may also request a MetroCard to escort their children to school.

  • Parents of children who receive busing from their home or are in grades K through 6 and do not live in areas where public transportation between home and school is available may request reimbursement for transportation costs. Parents who drive their children to school will be reimbursed at a rate of 55 cents per mile. Parents who use a taxi or car service to transport their child to school will be reimbursed for the trip upon completion of reimbursement forms that includes a receipt for provided services. Requests for reimbursements should be made weekly on forms that will be available on the DOE web site, Schools.NYC.gov, and in schools' general offices. Families who plan to drive or use a car service to carpool are encouraged to carpool with their neighbors whenever possible.

  • In the unfortunate event that students cannot get to school, the Department will be posting materials online for every grade and core subject so that students can continue their learning at home during the strike.

    The DOE will continue to update New Yorkers and will post new information on Schools.NYC.gov. Information will also be available at 311.

    ---
    Get Eyewitness News Delivered

    Facebook | Twitter | Newsletters | Text Alerts


  • Load Comments