Sunday, January 6, 2013

Possible school bus strike impacts all


The possibility of a strike by the city’s school bus drivers inched closer on Sunday, with the schools chancellor, Dennis M. Walcott, detailing contingency plans for the 152,000 public and private students who could be affected, as, steps away, hundreds of bus drivers, union leaders and parents noisily protested the loss of job security in new contracts.
The City Education Department said that a strike could begin this week and that it wanted to warn parents.
“They’re playing our children in an unfortunate way as far as making them not know what will be happening with school,” Mr. Walcott said at a midday news conference at the department’s headquarters, at the Tweed Courthouse in Lower Manhattan.
But at a rally outside City Hall, just south of the old courthouse, Michael Cordiello, the president of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, representing 9,000 bus drivers, urged the city to negotiate, saying a strike would be “the last card we want to play.” 
At issue was the department’s announcement last month that it would be accepting competitive bids for 1,100 of its routes — about a sixth of the total — for children with disabilities. Though the other routes are not affected and some bus companies are nonunion, the department said any job action could spread.
Drivers, union leaders and many parents object to the lack of job security measures, known as employee protection provisions, in the new contracts, and said broader issues, like safety and the competence of drivers and onboard matrons, were at stake.
“I stand with them. These jobs need to have respectable wages,” said Carin van der Donk, who, with her husband, the actor Vincent D’Onofrio, has a son with disabilities and is an advocate for improving bus transportation. “They need more training, not less.”
Mr. Walcott insisted that drivers hired under new contracts would receive proper training and accused the union of preying on parents’ fears.  
The department hopes to drive down busing costs, which it says hover around $1.1 billion a year, or $6,900 per child, the highest in the country. By comparison, according to Mr. Walcott, the cost in Los Angeles is $3,124 per student.
Money saved by the new contracts would, he said, be devoted to classroom needs.
Among the backup plans the department is making are these: children who take yellow buses could receive MetroCards through their schools; parents of younger children could be given MetroCards; and those whose schools were inaccessible by public transportation could be reimbursed for mileage or cabs.
School bus drivers last went on strike in 1979; the 13-week walkout ended after the protections were put in place.
Until the summer of 2011, the Bloomberg administration argued in a lawsuit brought by nonunion bus companies that the job protections, which require companies to hire drivers and other employees based on seniority, should be preserved. The city even drafted a bill in Albany that would have enshrined the protections in law. Mr. Walcott said a ruling that year by the State Court of Appeals legally prohibited the city from including the protections in new contracts. But a lawyer for the union said the decision applied only to contracts for prekindergarten students.
Mr. Cordiello said the union was not opposed to competitive bidding, as long as the protections remained.
Dwight Daniels, 60, of the Bronx, who has been a driver for 35 years and remembers the strike, said he could not imagine being able to keep his job without the protection provision. “It’s impossible to live as it is,” he said.
Carin van der Donk, founder of Common Sense Busing and parent to a special needs child, speaks at a rally held by school bus drivers and parents, calling on city officials to take action so bus drivers don't strike. van der Donk is concerned that replacement bus drivers won't be able to accommodate special needs children. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)



Anonymous said...

this isnt the kind of thing that should be on here. Let them have something of a life away from the fans. They dont want their kids on the fansites, this is the same thing.

JoJo said...

Since when are drivers in a union? I know this is going to be an unpopular thing for me to say but unions are ruining this country. The teachers were always going on strike at the beginning of the school year back in WA. One year it lasted till Halloween. It screwed the seniors out of their potential fall sports scholarships and working the following summer when the time had to be made up through mid-July. Selfish selfish selfish.

Sandy said...

Not much Union outm here on the prairie, so don't know a heck of a lot about it, pro or con, but Poor Elias is getting the label of the kid with dissabilities. Granted, Vincent has expressed that he has some learning problems, but shouldn't have to be brought up all the time. Just my opinion.

vikeau said...

First I think unions get a bad rap simply because they protect the rights of the workers they represent which at times conflicts with other persons rights. However, I will make my disclaimer here noting that I am a member of a Union. In a perfect world management would have the best interest of the workers at heart and pay fair wages and provide job security and the like. But that is not the case and workers are often put in the unteniuos postiton of being cheated out of wages( i.e. Walmart currently being sued for not paying workers overtime earned), benefits and in the case of the bus drivers job security. Having been on the negoiating team for my union, I'm all too aware of the sleight of hand management plays and the lengths they will go to not to provide wages, health care or pension benefits. So I support the drivers right to strike for better/more secure working conditions.

On the other issue as to whether this article should have even been posted here--I don't see it as a problem since it is in essence a re-print of a news article that that was properly identified as such. However, in discussing the particulars of which child, what type of disability and the like really should not be up for discussion (in my opinion) unless the parents deem that it is a topic they wish to discuss and have others discuss. Although if you remember about 1 1/2 years ago at the Woodstock Film Festival, Blanca posted a video she made (with permission to take said video) where VDO briefly touched upon the issue when discussing the film "Johnny and Me".

Oh and by the by Happy New Year everyone.

Nantz said...

I wouldn't label him as 'disabled' so I cringe at that. The problem here is that Mayor Bloomberg did not show any transparency in notifying parents that a strike was being considered so that representation could be organized. It was by accident that it was found. The concern of the strike is that children with special needs need bus drivers who have been trained to handle that which may arise relative to their behaviors. Currently, drivers are being paid an average of $29 an hour and replacement drivers could mean hiring those at an hourly minimum wage and untrained with children that have special needs. Though I do not have an opinion good or bad about unions, I feel that this was handled in an underhanded way in regards to the parents. What is going on with Mayor Bloomberg? Anyone else think he's lost his marbles?

marian kaplan said...

Vikeau: Please let me know if you need names for
union endorsements.
Management has one interest, the bottom line.
Unions are on the side of the angels. Since the TRIANGLE SHIRT FACTORY FIRE OF 1911, factory doors are kept open ONLY because someone is watching.

Success to the school bus drivers, not only children with issues, but all children should have the best and
most qualified driving them to school, not the lowest

vikeau said...

Nantz I think you are correct not only has Bloomberg lost his marbles but the pouch you keep them in.

Laura said...

Hi, Nantz! Thanks for the article. It is sad that some feel as if unions are ruining our country. Corporate greed is what is destroying America. Although I will agree that the labor culture has changed and that unions have to adapt, the unions are responsible for fighting for the rights of the 99 percent. How soon we forget!

nikkiesplace said...

Nantz Thanks for posting the article. It brings to light some of the major problems within our schools transportation systems. As parents of a special needs child I am sure that Carin's & Vincent's major concern is the safety of their son. If the schools want to save a few dollars they should really take a look in the area of most waste- Administration! Replacing trained bus drivers with someone untrained and working for minimum wage, and possible not English speaking, is just as dangerous as someone showing up at the schools with a gun. One of school districts up here tried that 2 years ago selling off their buses and laying off all the drivers in order to save dollars. They are now spending even more money to buy back buses and re-hire and train drivers. You cannot save money by hiring workers at minimum wage to protect your children. What they got were drivers whom were drinking on the job, pediafiles, and non-english speaking workers. Granted not all the drivers were this bad, but would you put your child, especially one with special needs on a bus?? Hurray for Carin for speaking out on behalf of her son.

Laura said...

I could not agree with Nikkie more. My son, too, has special needs and attended a non-public school under the auspices of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Recently, the school was taken over by another entity. Most of the regular bus drivers were let go. Additionally, most of the school-owned buses were sold and the work of the drivers was outsorced to a taxi company! I mean really? None of the parents were notified of the takeover or the change in transportation until a few weeks before school started. As a result, the children were extremely upset and as you can imagine, chaos was widespread. Now the school is in the process of re-purchasing school buses and hiring new drivers. Ridiculous!!! What a joke! I was so angry! I and other parents complained until our concerns were addressed. Too late for the children this school year, though. MONEY, MONEY, MONEY!

Sandy said...

Just want to say, Carin is a very pretty woman , isn't she??

Nantz said...

Yes, Sandy, she is a pretty woman and was a model back in the day.