On December 6, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181-1061 gave a rebuttal to NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s false announcement (Nov. 18) of an impending citywide school bus strike. The billionaire politician’s attempt to turn parent anger against these workers—instead of against his corporate attack on public education—was beaten back, as sixty people participated in a noon press conference called by ATU on the City Hall steps, including speakers from Parents to Improve School Transportation (PIST), Class Size Matters, and the Coalition for Educational Justice.
Teamsters’ Local 854, who also operate school buses, other Teamster leaders, and two major, militant unions now in contract negotiations here—Local 32-BJ of SEIU (building services) and Local 100 of Transport Workers’ Union (public transit)—sent delegations and their leaders gave statements. Local elected officials and religious leaders also joined in the rainy-day gathering (partially pictured above).
Local 1181 President Michael Cordiello assured parents, “there will be no strike this holiday season.” Cordiello made it clear that school bus drivers, escorts and mechanics hope to avoid a strike in the interest of fellow working class families who depend on their services, but that the city’s wish to “ship out school bus contracts to the cheapest bidder” would lead to unsafe conditions for bus children.
A key issue in contract negotiations now open for next school year is job security for qualified, experienced people who are responsible to transport children aged 18 months and up. Over sixty thousand of the 150,000 yellow bus riders in NYC are students with disabilities. As PIST grandmother Margaret DePaula said, “Anyone who undercuts yellow busing is undercutting the delivery of their civil rights” for equal access to education. She added, “We want unionized, trained drivers and escorts who know how to handle our special needs children!”
New Yorkers are urged to call the mayor’s and chancellor’s offices (212-788-3000 and 718 935-2000) to express support for Employee Protection Provisions in all school transportation contracts. Upcoming ATU 1181-1061 contract rallies will be announced on www.pistnyc.org(Events page; or scroll down on the Home page to News). Readers can find more coverage of Tuesday’s press conference at the same website—or on Facebook at PIST NYC—along with statements which have been circulating among parents in weeks prior, denouncing Bloomberg’s hypocritical scare tactics.
TWU L. 100 is also fighting for a no-layoff clause and other measures to make mass transit as safe as can be for those who work and ride on city subways and buses—including hundreds of thousands of other public school students and employees. That local’s next contract rally is December 15 at #2 Broadway starting at 4 p.m.
The crowd at Tuesday’s press conference underscored the links between transportation and education, and between job security and rider safety. As one sign read, “School Bus Parents & Unions UNITE for Safety, Better Routes, Disabled Rights!”