Bloomberg, Walcott Warn Of Possible Strike By Bus Drivers; Union Rips Mayor In Statement

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott on Friday in warning parents that more than 152,000 kids may be affected by a possible strike by city school bus drivers.

However, a statement put out by ATU Local 1181 President Michael Cordiello sought to reassure parents that there were “no immediate plans” for a strike.

This situation is the result of the Department of Education putting out a request for bids for new yellow bus service serving special education Pre-K and early intervention students. The current contract for the service expires in June of 2012.

The issue essentially boils down to a disagreement between the city and Local 1181 over a stipulation in the union’s new contract.

Bloomberg said the city is filing a charge with National Labor Relations Board over the possible strike.

“It is the Pre-K contract that is up for renewal, but they said they’d strike the entire system,” Bloomberg said.

“So the union is threatening an illegal strike that would harm the education of more than 150,000 thousand student if it doesn’t get its way and that is just outrageous,” he added.

The union statement went on to rip Bloomberg, saying all the mayor has done is “create more chaos, instability and concern among parents about NYC school buses, which have already been poorly managed for years.”

Cordiello also mentioned the Bronx bus crash back in March that left 15 people dead. The statement used that incident as a criticism of deregulation in the bus industry and said school students would be put at risk by the “casting away of experienced, well-trained employees in favor of companies who are simply seeking to provided bare-bones services at the lowest possible cost.”

“When it comes to school children the mayor should be more concerned about safety, not just cutting costs,” the statement read.

WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb With Mayor Bloomberg

Parents were outraged over the possibility of a strike.

“I just got the e-mail a few minutes ago. It’s certainly … I don’t think it’s fair,” said Susan Rios of East Harlem. “I walk her to the corner. She takes a school bus and then I go to work and if there’s a strike? Then I have to take the Second Avenue bus through construction traffic, leave early and get to work late.”

“This impacts the parents with work so it’s a real problem,” said Meg Wise-Lawrence of Forest Hills.

Bloomberg and Walcott unveiled an emergency plan in the event the strike occurs. Students who currently take a yellow bus from a designated bus stop will receive MetroCards. Parents or guardians of students who are picked up right at their homes may request a MetroCard to escort their child to school.

“For all students who are currently receiving yellow bus service from a designated school bus stop to school we will be issuing MetroCards and I’m happy to say that the MTA Chairman Joe Lhota has made 300,000 MetroCards available to us,” Bloomberg said.

1010 WINS’ Al Jones reports

“We still hope for the best but the union has given us no choice but to expect the worst,” Walcott said.

“We regret the possibility of what could be a major disturbance in the lives of students and their families. We continue to hope that the bus driver and escort union will not take such unwarranted action,” he wrote.

Click here to read Walcott’s letter to parents.

Walcott explained in the letter that the issue boils down to the union demanding a provision that would guarantee employees seniority-based job protections for pre-Kindergarten bus drivers be included in the bid process for the next contract.

Walcott said a court decision bars the city from including the provision.

“In our view, this would be an illegal strike,” Walcott wrote. “This is a very difficult situation for the school system and we understand that it may be very upsetting to our students and families.”

Domenic Gatto, President and CEO of Atlantic Express Transportation Corp., issued a statement agreeing the strike would be illegal.

“As the city’s largest school bus provider, Atlantic Express is vehemently opposed to a system-wide strike by ATU Local 1181 and we will do everything in our power to legally prevent our employees from violating their collective bargaining agreement, including going to the court for an immediate injunction,” Gatto said.

“It would be irresponsible to strike the whole system because of the concerns of current Pre-K bid issues,” he added.

What do you make of the possibility of the strike? Sound off in our comments section.

  • schoolbusdriverwife

    As the wife of a school bus driver, let me give you all a bit of a reality check here. First of all, any parent who puts their child on a school bus is endangering their child’s life. Those school buses are the most unsafe and unreliable forms of transportation running on the streets of NY. Brakes and lights are always faulty and the depot mechanics only “band-aid” the problem so they could go back on the streets the next day. My wife has gone without brakes, no air in the summer or heat in the winter. Seat belts DO NOT work properly and their first aid kits are useless. Unions? those are a joke. When my wife’s company decides they won’t pay the insurance premiums and the health insurance doesn’t pay and we get the bill, the Union doesn’t do Jack about it. They tell her to take it up with the company…really? And pay? My wife has NEVER EVER worked a 40 hour week, but she gets paid for 40 hours. Some of her runs have been 45 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the afternoon, a total of 90 minutes for the day, but she gets paid for 8 hours. I have watched this system for 29 years and it has been disgusting to watch how these drivers and matrons walk away with all this money and still complain. Did you know that they also unemployment benefits the whole summer and don’t even try looking for a job? Yes, she is my wife but this has been a huge issue between us. While regular people like me bust our humps “working” our 40 hours and have to fight like hell to get unemployment benefits, they are laughing all the way to the bank. So please, stop talking and commenting about things you people don’t know crap about.

  • Meme Meyagi

    what is done about 7 million mooslime terrorists living in usa?

  • R DE Ace

    Lord Bless all bus operators in all states, for they are, hard working people.

  • Ben Cirlin

    According to government statistics, NYC school bus drivers are not only the safest in the US but also the safest in the world. They are the most responsible employees New York has. The last strike occurred in 1979 when the city attempted competitive bidding as a guise to get rid of the union. They attempted to save money and in the long run, caused an incredible amount of hardship for the children and parents of our city. This is clearly an attempt by the Mayor and his tea party supporters at union busting and using the disguise of saving money as the way in which to do it. This is a union of over 15,000 members who have performed outstanding work keeping our children safe. If this goes out to bid without union specifications, it will only cause chaos and in the long run the companies that win the bids will be organized anyway. Let’s not repeat history that does not work .Mr Mayor, this is not the direction to take and I urge you to continue the process that has kept NYC children safer than any other city in America.

  • WorkingStiff

    Mr. Mayor gets paid $1 in annual salary and donates millions of dollars to help the poor. Meanwhile, the 99% have to pay the salary and benefits of union workers who stick out their hands asking for more and more. Union workers are doing much better than the average non-union workers , Why do non-union workers have to make union workers richer? If the bus drivers don’t like their pay, then they can find a different job. Don’t make the rest of us pay more taxes so you get better wages and benefits.

  • Matthew

    Mr. Mayor: SHAME – SHAME – SHAME! How sad that the working people of today are constantly having to fight just to keep the little bit the rich has “allowed” them to have. Enough is enough is right – stop the “just-us” and give us some “justice”! Support the working class and show the rich who the majority really is!

  • brendon

    This really speaks volumes as to what this mayor stands for or should I say “who” this mayor stands for. Mr. Mayor, way to prove the OWS point of the 99% – keep looking out for the rich and stepping on the poor and it will only continue to raise all the problems and demonstrations we see on wall street. Trying to work against the workers job protection – really?! Stop hiding behind the “highest court ruling” and tell the people the truth of how that ruling come to be — isnt that another way of having the rich get richer and the poor get poorer? What a bully!

  • Samuel D

    Regarding the school bus strike: Talk about scare tactics – its a shame its coming from the mayor of nyc! Interesting to hear that bus drivers were just hearing of this strike action from the news media and not their union. We the majority really need to stand by the working poeple of america – enough is enough! Our rich mayor needs to buy himself a clue as to what its like to be a blue collar worker in todays world! No wonder he has such a big mess brewing on wall street (OWS)! If he continues with these scare tactics and bullying the poor and middle class of NY its no surprise to see the oppressed rise up! Rather than take away the working class job protection he should be thinking of ways of securing it! Isn’t that supposed to be a crucial part of his job???????



  • nycboy

    OF THE 1%.

    • susan moore

      the biggest mouth talking about a strike belongs to bloomberg. there is no planned strike. the mayor is just talking out of both sides of his face. his intent, is to turn public opinion against the school bus drivers abd their union.

      it’s diffiicult to call for a strike, especially when drivers and escorts are first hearing about all this on the afternoon news. furthermore, according to union bylaws, there has to be a strike vote taken before anyone walks off the job. NO ONE wants a strike, NO ONE can afford a strike.

      BTW…before someone gets started union bashing…you have over 15,000 safe, certified bus drivers, who transport over 150,000 children in a safe and timely manner each and every day,…don’t you think our pre-K children deserve the same professional standards???

  • Rachel

    Any idea when this could take effect? This is a huge problem for us as my son (with an IEP) travels over an hour each way to/from school by bus. He’s only 10 and to get to school by public transport would be (according to hopstop) 3 buses and 2 trains each way! A car service would likely be $40 each way, at least.

    • cpa8090

      Someone just called from my son’s school and said they are very concerned that it might take place within the hour. There is an reimbursement process for children with IEP in the actual paperwork that you will receive from school today or may have already received via e-mail.

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