July 12, 2013
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY–In January school bus drivers with the Amalgamated Transportation Union Local 1181 went on strike to protest the Bloomberg administration’s striking out employee protection provisions from bids for transporting children to school. The local’s president, Michael Cordiello, said on Thursday at City Hall that nearly 2,000 school bus drivers lost their jobs in June because the provisions were stripped from the bids. Watch Video
.When the Bloomberg administration said the city wasn’t bound to include EPPs in bids because of a state court decision, arguing that it would be illegal for the city to do so, the union went on strike for the first time since 1979.
The EPPs are intended to protect school bus drivers with the most years on the job from the whims of a competitive bidding process where school bus operators trip over each other to offer the lowest cost.
The union says it doesn’t oppose school bus operators bidding for school bus routes, but argues that stripping EPPs from bids devalues the occupation by causing a high turnover among drivers and the hiring of new drivers at lower wages and without comprehensive training, which puts school children at risk.
On Thursday at City Hall, Mr. Cordiello was joined by parents and elected officials, including Assembly Member Micah Kellner who has introduced legislation in the state’s assembly requiring comprehensive training for school bus drivers and school bus attendants who transport the city’s school children with special needs or disabilities. The union hopes the bill passes before the start of the new school year in September if Governor Cuomo convenes a special session of the Legislature.
Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito said Assembly Member Kellner’s bill symbolizes the direction New York City must take.
“We’re talking about job protection, good jobs with benefits and providing a social service infrastructure for families and children with disabilities.”
Council Member Letitia James, who is running for the public advocate office, took the Bloomberg administration to task for saying that EPPs are illegal.
“The outright lies by this administration hurt 2,000 individuals, mostly women of color who lost their jobs last month. Two-thousand low-wage workers who are now going to have to rely on the dole. Some lies hurt more than others. And this lie hurt our local economy,” said James.
In an interview, Mr. Cordiello said the bill, should it pass if the special session is convened, would benefit union drivers with the most experience.
“It would ensure that the most experienced drivers would always be offered the right to continue work in the school bus industry. And that would be for the safety of the children. Experience equals safety.”
It’s been five months since the strike ended and Mr. Cordiello said the fallout from the strike because of a lack of EPPs in bids the city launched in January for school bus routes in September is ongoing.
“When we went back to the bargaining table with the [school bus] contractors, because the city refused to bargain with us, the contractors declared an illegal impasse and enforced a ‘best and final’ offer that reduces drivers’ overall working package by 30 percent,” said Cordiello.
The union challenged the contractors’ offer by filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board and a hearing is set for July 22. Cordiello also noted that the union is seeking an injunction in federal court to stop the contractors from enforcing the offer.
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