New York school bus drivers and matrons end strike

NEW YORK – Despite the National Relations Board decision their strike was legal and despite the offer made by the union to have a 60-90 day cooling off period, Mayor Bloomberg refused to sit at the table as an involved participant in negotiations, insisting the dispute was between the bus companies and the union.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 would have begun its fifth week on strike due to an impasse with Department of Education and the regional bus companies that service thousands of school children including children with special needs.

The issue of the Employee Protection Provisions (EPPs), which put all the workers on one list for purposes of determining seniority, regardless of which contractor actually employs them, has been kicked back and forth by the bus companies that bid on routes and the DOE; each claiming that the other is responsible for upholding the EPP provision of the contract.

This is a provision that has been in place for 65 years, but Mayor Bloomberg says it has become untenable and points to Los Angeles costs for these services, claiming that New York spends over $6,000 per student per year where LA spends $3,400. But Bloomberg’s figures have been disputed by independent parties.

The NLRB found that Local 1181 had a fair dispute with both the DOE and the bus companies. “Significantly, while the companies have not agreed to the union’s proposal that the collective-bargaining agreements incorporate the EPPs, they have the ability to do so,” the ruling stated. “It is well established that more than one employer may be a primary employer,” it continued, noting the both the DOE and bus companies counted in this case.

The union’s executive board voted to suspend the strike a day after Public Advocate Bill DiBlasio, Comptroller John Liu, former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former City Councilman Sal Albanese sent a letter to Larry Hanley, the ATU’s international president, calling on the union to end the walk-out.

President Hanley said in a statement Friday that he was encouraged by the letter. “We view this request to suspend the current strike as an earnest effort on behalf of the city, its children and its workers,” Hanley said. “I will be discussing options this afternoon and evening with the leaders and members of Local 1181.”

Bloomberg’s anti-union rhetoric is clear in this statement, “For decades, the monopolistic bus contract process benefited the bus companies and unions at the expense of the city’s taxpayers and students-but no longer,” Bloomberg said in a statement yesterday. “The end of this strike reflects the fact that when we say we put children first, we mean it.”

Claiming he puts the children first is questionable when one considers the hardship of mothers and fathers trying to get their children to their destination, using mass transit and taxi cabs when he could have sat down before the walkout and helped negotiate a settlement. Complications, especially in wintry weather, resulted in school absences for some students and missed workdays for their parents.

Local 1181has gotten support from many New York unions including: TWU Local 100, United Federation of Teachers, (UFT) Communications Workers of America, (CWA) The Central Labor Council, (CLC) and many parents of the children involved. Parents understand the relationship between their children and the matrons that take care of the children – especially those with special needs – and that it is necessary to have experienced caring workers to do this job.

“Though our strike has been suspended, the principles that we fight for remain pressing issues that the city will have to address, our bus drivers and matrons look forward to getting back to work and doing the important job of safely transporting the students, who are like our own children, to and from school each day,” said Michael Cordiello, the local president.

Photo: ATU Local 1181’s Facebook page.



Gabe Falsetta
Gabe Falsetta

Long-time social justice activist Gabe Falsetta writes from New York City.