NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Parents across New York City scrambled for a second day to figure out alternatives so tens of thousands of students can get to school as a standoff between striking school bus drivers and matrons and the city continues.
Michael Cordiello of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union said the drivers will strike until Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city agree to put a job security clause back into their contract.
“I came to urge the mayor to resolve this strike,” Cordiello said on Tuesday. “It is within his power to do so.”
But Bloomberg said the strike “is about job guarantees that the union just can’t have.”
Union leaders haven’t set a deadline for when the strike might end. They only said they’ll stay on strike until their demands are met. Parents said they’re hoping for some sort of compromise, CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported.
The city has put its contracts with private bus companies up for bid, aiming to cut costs. Local 1181 said drivers could suddenly lose their jobs when contracts expire in June.
Bloomberg has said the city must seek competitive bids to save money.
The union sought job protections for current drivers in the new contracts. The city said that the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, has barred it from including such provisions because of competitive bidding laws; the union said that’s not so.
“We need that provision,” said driver Albert Shirano. “We’ve had it for 34 years.”
The dispute pits two seemingly irreconcilable imperatives against each other: city budget constraints and union members’ desire to keep their jobs. Absent an injunction, the strike could last a long time, observers on both sides of the issue said.
Many workers said their futures are at stake, especially those with the most seniority, who worry they will get forced out under a new deal and replaced by less experienced and cheaper workers.
“I want to make it very clear we do not oppose a bid all we’re saying is protect the labor, protect the children by keeping the most experienced drivers and matrons on,” Cordiello said.
Parents and kids meanwhile are caught in the middle. Many have been forced to walk, take the subway or hop in a taxi to get to class.
To sway public opinion, the union has launched TV ads warning parents about new school drivers who could be hired if the city doesn’t meet their demands.
“When inexperienced drivers take your kids to school, sometimes they never get there,” the ad says.
But city officials said the strike isn’t about safety, but about protecting a rare perk.
“The irony is that New York City is the only district in the country that has the employee protection provision,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.
As both sides dig in, parents are left with few choices.
“I have four children in four different schools across Brooklyn,” said parent Tameka Carter. “There’s not that many understanding bosses that will allow you to be late or leave early every day just to pick up your child.”
“It’s stressful, but do I roll over and cry? I gotta do it,” mother Maureen McLean told CBS 2. “I don’t understand what it’s all about, I just have to do what I have to do.”
The city said that on Wednesday, 113,200 students out of 152,000 who take a school bus weren’t able to do so. The rest had bus routes that were running.
Those who rely on the buses include 54,000 special education students and others who live far from schools or transportation. They also include students who attend specialized school programs outside of their neighborhoods.
The city is distributing MetroCards to students who could take buses and subways to school. It also plans to reimburse parents who drive or take taxis.
“We will get our children to school,” Walcott said.
The city’s last school bus strike, in 1979, lasted 14 weeks. Bloomberg said Wednesday, “I hope this is not going to last a long time but it’s not going to last past June.”
For more information about the strike for parents and students, click here.
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