There is a strike going on around here…

*Le sigh*

NYC school bus drivers have decided to strike. I mean really STRIKE! I am not sure if you guys have heard anything about this; it is quite the big deal. They decided to go all out and strike on Wednesday.

What this means for parents? We now have to figure out a way to get our children to school and then get to work — on time. The school bus is a saving grace for most of us. I know it is for me. My daughter starts school @ 8am; her bus comes @ 7:15am. Once I drop her to the bus stop around the corner, I have to race my ass to work everyday; I start work at 8am. I usually get to work at about 8:03 ish. Yea, I am always right on time or a few minutes late. I have a 5 minute grace period, which I clearly use almost daily. In the evening it is the same routine. We both end our days at 4 and I have to race my ass to the bus stop by 5ish to pick her up.

I am not upset about the strike; I understand the need to fight for what you believe is right. We are all going to have to go through this together. Unfortunately, I think this strike is a waste of time. I do not think the bus drivers will be happy with the end result.

What do they want? More money? Nope! Overtime? Nope! Benefits? Nope!

They want employee protection. I will explain what that means.

Bus drivers are demanding job security through what is called Employee Protection Provisions (EPP). The provisions assure that senior bus drivers and matrons will get priority over newcomers. They also protect wages and pensions, according to the union.

The city AKA the Mayor (Mr. Bloomberg) needs to save money on school bus transportation. He says the city is paying over a million dollars a year on busing school children. Basically the cost is now out of hand and he has to reel it in.

Businesses who want to work with the city need to bid for city contracts AKA city money. Every business in the land wanted or wants to get some city, state or federal money. The mayor decided to open up the market and allow new bus companies the opportunity to bid for these contracts, aiming to cut costs.

If three companies bid, who ever says they can do the job the cheapest, will probably be the one who gets the contract; which makes sense. If I need to remodel my house and I go to a few companies for a quote, I would probably go with the cheapest quote too. This is exactly what the city is doing now. They think the bus companies they currently use are charging too much. They can no longer allow these businesses to “bleed the city dry.” Back in the day, it was different. You could know in your heart, if the city is giving you money for any reason, it will never stop. Now? Everyone is now looking over their budgets with a fine tooth comb.

Right now, the city has contracts with a few bus companies. They are pretty much getting all the city money. They have had these contracts in place for over 30 years. Each year the cost probably goes up. Once the bus company gets the contract, they now pay their bus drivers, businesses costs, overhead etc.

The bus drivers union is seeking  employee protections for current drivers in the new contracts. There is one union that represents most of the school bus drivers. They feel when the current contract expires in June, they will all be out of a job. The new and cheaper bus companies and drivers will take over. The union feels they have senior divers who have driven our kids for many years and they want to be guaranteed a job when they make new deals. They city is not giving them any guarantees or employee protection. Why? It is simple. The bus drivers are not city employees. They do not work for New York City. They work for private bus companies.

Once the city pays the bus company for providing services, they have nothing else to do with the relationship between the bus company and it’s employees. They can not guarantee someone else’s employee anything. If they drove a NYC bus or train, they might have a leg to stand on. Last year, the city and the union went to court; the city won. Mayor Bloomberg says the court ruled the city can’t include such provisions because of competitive bidding laws. Which makes sense. How are they going to make a promise to certain drivers and not other drivers? The whole point of allowing other companies to  bid — is to save money. Guaranteeing people who earn more money for a job would defeat the purpose.

The union is saying Bloomberg and the Department of Education are full of shit. They believe, even though they are not obligated to offer employee protection, they should and they can. They feel they have seasoned bus drivers who should not be out of a job when the new contracts kick in. I agree with the union here. I want the more experienced bus drivers driving our kids everyday. I don’t want the cheaper new-jacks to drive my child. These people will be running out to get their commercial license and will be more than happy to work for beans. They will not have the experience in dealing with children and managing the school bus. I am scared about these new contracts; although I do understand why it is needed.

If they do not get what they want they are not driving anyone anywhere. *le sigh*

Realistically, they would need to go get a job at the new company who is now driving for the city. I don’t know what they should do, but I do believe they feel their backs are against the wall.

Over a 152,000 children take a school bus daily; the entire city is adjusting. Although, I understand how the 8000 striking bus drivers feel, I just don’t think this last-ditch effort will help them in any way. The last bus strike in 1979 went on for 14 weeks. This might go just as long, unless the courts feel the union is pursuing an unlawful strike, it will seek a federal injunction to halt the labor action.

The city and the Department of Education are prepared for this strike and they said they will go as long as it takes, because they need to bring down the costs. My daughter and nephew came home with student Metro Cards on Tuesday. When I took my daughter to school on Wednesday, they gave me a Metro card for myself. They also will reimburse parents a certain amount for gas and cabs. They will not hold absences against the kids and they will be allowed to be late up to 2 hours daily. The transportation department is prepared for an influx of riders as well. I mean, how can the bus drivers really win?

It is a bad situation for everyone involved. New contracts will definitely be in effect in June and the strike can last until then. That would really suck. The bus drivers are only hurting themselves because I doubt they are getting paid anything during this strike. Once the strike is over, they will be out of a job. They might as well make some money until then and think of some plan B’s and C’s.

Has anything like this ever happened where you live?

What could be a solution for all parties involved?

2 Comments

  1. You said school bus. I thought you meant MTA buses ’cause I totally didn’t hear about this in the Bronx (although I’m away from the city right now).

    Right now, I my focus is too clouded to tackle labor disputes and contract and stuff. I’ll have to let this 1 digest to come up with a coherent response.

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