February 11, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
To the chagrin of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the most powerful voices speaking out in support of striking ATU workers on February 10, belonged to disgusted parents of New York City public school kids who blame the three-term executive – and not the union – for stranding their children at the curb. (Read More and watch video)
“We know what this is about,” Community Education Council District 3 member Noah Gotbaum said. “This is not about kids. This is about union busting. This is about denigrating working people.”
Gotbaum assured striking school bus drivers, matrons and mechanics that “the parents are with you,” and chastised the mayor for raking in billions while “coming after” workers earning less than $40K.
“It is so wrong what is going on,” Gotbaum said. “Don’t tell me that you have to balance the budget on the backs of drivers and matrons. That doesn’t work. Take it out of the profits of the companies, take it out of the profits for the consultants, take it out of the charters schools that are increasing our costs.”
Leaders from PIST – Parents to Improve School Transportation – denounced Bloomberg for both provoking and prolonging the school bus strike, as well as bullying all those who oppose him.
With a year still left in his third term, Zakiyah Ansari, parent leader with the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice and advocacy director for the Alliance for Quality Education, said that the city needs a new mayor who understands the importance of labor.
“We stand here in support of the school bus drivers and matrons who get our children to school safely,” said the mother of eight. “But ATU under this current administration is not the only thing under attack – our public schools are as well.”
Others just expressed frustration with the billionaire mayor’s continued refusal to negotiate a settlement.
“I just want an end to it because our kids need to get to school,” Queens mom Sandy Dennis said. “It’s hard for us. My child is in a wheelchair, so it’s hard to take that kid to school.”
So far, the prevailing narrative throughout the course of the nearly month-old school bus strike has focused almost entirely on the walkout’s impact on families, without bothering to probe its causes. Nevertheless, hard-pressed parents who say they have built special relationships with the men and women who safely ferry their children to school each day, had no trouble identifying the roots causes of the the ongoing strike and the need for the mayor to quit trying to deprive workers of time-honored Employee Protection Provisions [EPP].
“For two-and-a-half hours a day, I trust my son with special needs to ATU employees,” Gotbaum said. “You have my phone number and I have yours. That means everything to me. And now, the mayor is trying to turn you into hourly, piecemeal transit employees. That is wrong. EPP security for ATU drivers, is really CP – Children’s Protections. Security for workers is security for me as a parent.”
Outspoken mom Carin van der Donk expressed similar concerns.
“My son receives door-to-door bussing every day,” van der Donk said. “He’s on the bus every day for three hours at a minimum. And I want you guys, the people that see my child every morning and work with him day in and day out, to be treated with dignity and have job security. Otherwise, how can I expect you guys to treat my child with the respect that he deserves?”
Bids on the city’s contested school bus routes are now due, but the mayor’s opponents want Bloomberg to pull them back and instead start negotiations with the union.
“When President Obama spoke at his inaugural address, he stressed that the free market only thrives when there are rules to insure competition and fair play,” van der Donk added. “I call on our New York City leaders to embrace those words, negotiate in good faith and find a way to get everybody back on their bus.”