March 31, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—Deputy Schools Chancellor Kathleen Grimm was expected to testify before the City Council but nobody from the Department of Education showed up. It turns out someone from DOE attended the hearing to observe the proceedings, but it wasn’t Kathleen Grimm. Video
It’s more than a year since school bus drivers represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1181 went out on strike after former schools chancellor Dennis Walcott and former mayor Michael Bloomberg eliminated employee protection provisions (EPP) from contracts that private bus companies would bid on to do the work.
The EPP had been in effect since 1979 when an agreement was reached between the Local and DOE to settle a 14-week strike of drivers, escorts and mechanics.
The EPP is a master seniority list of school bus employees that private bus companies, when the companies signed contracts with the city to transport children to school, must use to fill job vacancies. According to the union, the elimination of the EPP starting last year has directly led to job losses and lower-paying jobs because private bus companies aren’t hiring workers from the master seniority list.
On Thursday, Local 1181 members and supporters rallied at City Hall before attending the Committee on Civil Service and Labor hearing chaired by Councilmember and former ATU 1056 president, Daneek Miller.
Michael Cordiello, Local 1181’s president, said in an interview that the elimination of the EPP is causing chaos in the school bus industry.
“The costs associated with removing the EPPs [include] $21 million in reimbursements to parents who had to find other ways to get their children to school [during the strike]; 2,000 men and women out of work; and that the city might be liable for $265 million in pension liabilities for our pension fund that could potentially go under,” said Cordiello.
Cordiello hopes the new mayoral administration and schools chancellor will restore the EPP in upcoming bids.
“I hope to hear that the EPP will be reinstated and that my 2,000 workers find their way back into the industry so that their pensions, wages and welfare benefits will be safe,” said Cordiello.
Unfortunately, nobody from the city showed up but a member of the committee’s staff read a statement submitted by Deputy Schools Chancellor Grimm. In her statement, Grimm said, while defending a state appeals court decision in 2011 that EPPs were “anti-competitive," DOE will be re-revisiting the process started post-EPP.
“In light of the arrival of the new City administration, DOE, with support from other agencies, is currently reviewing the benefits and drawbacks of the process begun in 2011 and various options to proceed. We are using these criteria (safety of DOE students and quality of service; worker protection and fairness; and fiscal responsibility and sustainability) to review the current conditions and consider directions for the future.”
Cordiello hopes the City and Mayor Bill de Blasio place a moratorium on any upcoming bids that don’t have EPPs.
“Contracts that went to bid for September 2014 will be expiring in June and new private bus companies will be bidding and that’s another 2,500 of our members that’ll be displaced,” Cordiello said. “There’s another bid due in May for the 2015 school year and that’ll eliminate another 4,000 jobs.”
If the de Blasio administration doesn’t step in, Cordiello worries the worst will happen.
“They must, or this industry is going to go to low-wage, transient workers,” Cordiello said.
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