NEW YORK - As members of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union continue their struggle against Mayor Michael Bloomberg, all working people should rally behind these dedicated drivers and matrons. While the school bus strike nears its second week, a decision by the National Labor Relations Board could compel both sides to the table.
It has been reported that the National Labor Relations Board's Brooklyn office has finished its review of the bus companies' case on the city's yellow school bus strike and made a recommendation to its office in Washington.
Bloomberg has insisted that the dispute is between the bus companies and the union. But clearly, this is not the case. At stake is the Employee Protection Provisions (EPP), and the struggle to keep jobs that pay a living wage,
Since 1979, following a 14-week bus strike, the city's bidding specifications have included the EPP clause. The Education Department has solicited bids from companies interested in transporting special-education students on roughly 1,000 routes. These require winning bidders to hire workers off a "master seniority list," meaning essentially that every bus driver and worker employed by one company today would be hired by the next winning company tomorrow.
Michael Cordiello, Local 1181 President said, "They (EPP's) have existed as far back as 1965, under a different name." Cordiello also pointed out that, "We have a private pension plan that has no financial burden on the city of New York, and the most senior members of Local 1181 are in fact a tremendous bargain."
As drivers gain seniority, they get to pick their routes. "It's basically picking your job," said Albert Serrano, an Atlantic driver for 13 years. "The longer you're there, the better the chance you have to pick something you want." - e.g., they may look for a preferred school or a route that ends close to their home.
Drivers are required to check all safety measures before going to their routes. These drivers have Class B Commercial licenses from New York State with special endorsements for passengers, schools and air brakes. It is a costly and cumbersome procedure to acquire these credentials. These drivers have earned the right to their seniority. The average wage is $14 to $29 an hour, and work 40-hours. They do not receive overtime until 10 hours.
Drivers start their shift at 5:30 am and usually finish up anytime between 4 and 6 p.m. Children with special needs require special attention and experienced matrons who ride with drivers, see to it that these children are brought home safely. The matrons have built relationships with these children; trust is essential between matrons and the children especially when children are taken on outings.
Estelle Jacobs, a 23-year veteran matron of Local 1181 works for Reliant. She had this to say to the People's World: "We have had this agreement (EPP) for 34 years. The Boston local just won their contract last week and they have the same agreement." The Boston local is scheduled to come to New York in a show of solidarity with their brothers and sisters. She went on to say, "The union offered Mayor Bloomberg a 60 to 90 day reprieve but he turned his back on it."
The New York City labor movement stands with Local 1181.The International ATU, TWU Local 100, the New York City Central Labor Council, and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) are all in this together. They know all to well Bloomberg's animosity towards unions and they know these living wage jobs must be saved.
Most New York City Public workers have been without contracts for 30 months. So, solidarity in this fight to save thousands of living wage jobs is essential to the well being of all working families in New York City.
Photo: Carmine Savarese // CC 2.0