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Thousands of Kids Stranded, City Doesnt Back Down

NY Post

Thousands of city kids were left stranded this morning when school-bus drivers and matrons went on strike, leaving parents scrambling to find other ways to get their children to school.

On Fox-5 TV this morning, the mayor said the city won’t back down.

“There’s no extra money so we couldn’t change our mind and cave if we wanted to,” Bloomberg said. “There’s only a certain amount of money. I’m not going to move money away from police and worry about safety in the streets to pay bus drivers.”

The mayor also said he would not ask the courts to intervene right now.

“I don’t think it’s time yet to do that. No. 1, it’s not clear that all of the unions are striking. We’ll find out later this morning. It’s not clear this union won’t come to its senses and say I just don’t want to hurt the kids — and this is not something that’s going to help them. They’re going to lose out on their pay from now until June,” said the mayor.

The schools chancellor predicted widespread problems.

“It’s going to be chaotic today, it’s going to be traumatic. This is the first day. It hasn’t happened in 33 years,” said Walcott.

The devastating job action, called Monday by the union representing most of the city’s yellow bus drivers and matrons, left as many as 152,000 children — including 54,000 special-needs kids — faced with travel nightmares or even getting stuck at home for the duration of the work stoppage.

City officials took to the airwaves yesterday to blast Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union for leaving the students — many of whom have already suffered through Hurricane Sandy and missed a week of school — in the lurch.

“The union drivers are striking against our children, plain and simple,” Walcott said yesterday.

The city distributed free MetroCards to tens of thousands of students yesterday to help them with the expected transportation chaos. Free monthly cards also will be handed out to parents of kids in second grade and younger today.

But MTA officials acknowledged that the cards might not work at all subway stations until later today, nor on all public bus routes until late tomorrow.

The last time city school-bus drivers went on strike was 34 years ago. It lasted three months.

Today’s strike was sparked over a job-protection clause that the city removed from newly bid-out contracts.

Local 1181 claims that up to 2,500 of its members’ jobs will be at stake if new bus companies are awarded contracts in June without the protective clause.

“We’ve tried every option to avoid a strike, but our members feel that their back is to the wall and they must take a stand on this issue,” said Local 1181 chief Michael Cordiello.

Workers were heard chanting this morning “What do we want? Contracts. When do we want them? Now.”

The city disputes the group’s job numbers and insists it wasn’t allowed to maintain the protections because they were deemed illegal by the state’s highest court in 2011.

Education officials also said they’re trying to trim costs from their $1.1 billion yellow-busing budget, the highest in the nation.

While at least six small bus companies said they were planning to operate as usual this morning, it wasn’t clear whether union protesters might try to block them.

Asked yesterday whether his union would allow other workers to cross picket lines or enter non-union bus depots, Cordiello would only say, “Our members have been instructed to do nothing that’s illegal.”

His union represents nearly 9,000 drivers, matrons and mechanics — including nearly all the bus matrons who are required to supervise special-ed students.

That appeared to mean that even companies with non-Local 1181 drivers would be prevented from running their special-education routes.

Local 584 of the Teamsters union — which represents roughly 1,000 drivers, matrons and mechanics — said it wouldn’t join the strike because its contract with bus companies doesn’t allow for it.

But its president, Dan Gatto, also said his members wouldn’t cross picket lines.Parents can get updated information on which bus routes are running by clicking the Department of Education link on the city’s nyc.gov Web site or at www.opt-osfns.org/opt/Resources/SchoolRouteStSearch/searchresult.aspx.

8 Comments

    • 3. to # 2 wrote:

      whats wrong with the unions, union is the best thing that could happen for the average worker. why should the rich keep all the money?

    • 4. Milhouse wrote:

      That’s how thieves think: that there’s this big pot of money that appears by magic, and “the rich” take it all, unless “the average worker” forces them to give him some. That is nonsense. Wealth is *created*, it doesn’t appear by magic. And “the rich” are not some alien creatures, they got rich by their talent, hard work, mazel, and what they have is theirs by right; they didnt’ steal it from anyone else. Nor are workers more deserving than bosses, who are not necessarily rich.

      Unions are simply extortion gangs, who demand more money than they deserve, for their members who are usually very well off already, at the expense of non-members who are often poorer than them. And they do it with the threat of violence, or actual violence. That is what gives unions their power, and has always done so; give us what we want or you will be sorry. We will picket you and frighten your customers away or simply block their access; we will stand in front of your delivery trucks; we will sabotage your building when nobody is around to stop us, and we will follow your children home from school. That is how unions operate.

  • 5. Entailment Society wrote:

    People get FREE Schooling and FREE transportation (paid for by the hard working tax payers).

    When there is no transportation the city reimburses people for the cost of getting their children to school (?)

    Why can’ we just tell the folks getting everything for free, to find and pay their own way for a few days.

  • 6. chaim wrote:

    unions can yes be great … though someone please explain how can the unions demand something from city #1) when drivers do NOT get paid and do NOT work for the city … and #2) city is saying according to law city can NOT include what they want being contracts are bids

  • 8. Reply to 1 & 2 wrote:

    NYC DOE OPT School Bus Bids FAQs

    Why would the bus drivers’ unions strike?

    Last month, the City decided to solicit new bids on some of its busing contracts to help reduce costs – which have grown to $1.1 billion for yellow bus service. The drivers want job guarantees, known as Employee Protection Provisions, to be included in the new contract bids – something the City is not legally allowed to do. When the City put pre-kindergarten bus contracts out to bid, the Court of Appeals ruled that the Employee Protection Provisions could not be included under circumstances, which are essentially the same as those today. Still, the union is threatening to strike over provisions that the City cannot meet.

    Why go out for bids now?

    These busing contracts have not been put out for significant competitive bidding in 33 years. Since then, the cost of yellow bus service has skyrocketed to $1.1 billion a year, or $6,900 per bused student.

    As some of our contracts will expire at the end of this school year, the City has decided to solicit new bids for those contracts to secure the best responsible price for this service. Last Year, the City bid out contracts for pre-k bus service and saved $95 million over five years.

    The union claims the Employee Protection Provisions ensures that bus drivers meet safety standards. Is this true?

    This is not true. The bids we issued maintain the central requirements all bus drivers to meet the same safety standards they do now. No other school district in the state or country has an Employee Protection Provision. The following requirements are a part of the current contracts and will remain in the new ones:

    A Social Security card, and if not a United States citizen, a Green Card or Resident Card.

    A New York State commercial driver’s license (CDL) with CDL “S” (school bus) endorsement and “P” (passenger) endorsement.

    A letter from the bus company, on company letterhead, requesting certification.

    Three letters of reference (from individuals, organizations and/or agencies not related by blood or marriage to the driver) that attest to his or her character and work record.

    19-A final qualification letter (result of DMV fingerprint process).

    13 county criminal history check letter dated within 60 days.

    Physical performance test dated within 60 days. This exam is given once every two years.

    Medical examination and Purified Protein Derivative Tuberculosis Skin Test (PPD) dated within 90 days. If PPD is positive the results of a chest x-ray are required.

    Clean drug test results dated within 60 days.

    Abstract of official vehicle operating record from NYSDMV—19A Active-School Qualified. If not, driver should provide an add-on to roster letter from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DS-870).

    Pre-service training certificate—completion of five hour course provided through an OPT-certified training location

    Spring/fall refresher certificate—two hour required refresher course provided through an OPT-certified training location. Drivers must attend a yearly refresher course

    Complete OPT application signed by bus company representative. Driver will be certified under this company.

    Has the City tried to avoid a possible strike?

    Unfortunately, there are no legal remedies the City can pursue to block a strike. Last year, the union, Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, threatened to strike when we issued the Pre-K bid solicitation, and we asked the National Labor Relations Board to take action to block a strike. Regrettably, the NLRB denied our request.

    How many bus routes does the DOE have?

    The DOE has 7,700 bus routes that serve more than 152,000 students, 54,000 of whom have disabilities and require special transportation services.

    Of those total routes, the City put 1,100 out to bid last month. Those routes serve 22,500 students with disabilities who require special transportation in grades Kindergarten to 12.

    How many students would be affected by the strike?
    A system-wide strike would impact all 152,000 students who receive yellow bus services.

    How much of the school budget goes to cover the cost of busing?

    New York City pays more for yellow bus service than any other large urban district in the country. It costs $1.1 billion to bus 152,000 students – a per student cost of $6,900. Los Angeles – second only to New York City in size – pays $3,124 per student

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