The union representing New York City school bus drivers said a strike will begin tomorrow, forcing parents to find alternative ways for about 152,000 of the city’s 1.1 million public-school students to get to class.
The drivers, who work for private companies, plan the walkout to protest the city’s refusal to guarantee their jobs as it searches for new contracts on 1,100 routes serving 22,500 special-needs children. New York has 7,700 bus routes.
Job security “is directly linked to the safety and security of our children by ensuring the city’s most qualified, skilled and experienced school bus crews remain on the job,” Michael Cordiello, president of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said at a Manhattan news briefing. Job protection has been part of contracts for more than 30 years, he said.
Additional transit police, school-safety officers and crossing guards will be deployed to help students reach classrooms, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said.
The largest U.S. public-school system has already told parents it would offer free MetroCards to pay subway and bus fares for students as well as for parents of preschoolers and those with special needs. Parents also will be reimbursed if they need to drive or hire a car to bring children to school.
A decision by the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest tribunal, prohibits the city from offering job security and seniority to bus drivers who aren’t New York employees, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said.
“We have told the unions in unequivocal terms: Do not walk out on our students,” Bloomberg said yesterday at City Hall. “A strike would be not only unfair to children and families, it would be totally misguided because the city cannot legally offer what the unions are demanding.”
Richard Gilberg, a union lawyer, said the court limited its ruling to circumstances where one could show no benefit in hiring experienced drivers.
Bus service costs have skyrocketed to $1.1 billion a year from $100 million in 1979, with the city spending an average of $6,900 per bused student, more than any district in the country, Bloomberg said.
The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.