The wheels on the bus will finally be going round and round again.
School bus drivers and matrons returned to their posts on Wednesday, February 19, after the month-long stalemate that left more than 150,000 students stranded.
“I am very pleased and happy that the strike is over,” said Far Rockaway resident Crystal Blount, whose disabled son Nehemiah needed to be driven over an hour to his school on Long Island every day. “It was causing major stress. I had to take too many days off from work and lost a lot of time at work that I would normally use for emergencies.”
A major push to end the strike came when the five Democratic mayoral hopefuls signed a joint letter, urging the city and the union to come to an agreement.
According to bus driver Maria Gentile, the decision to end the strike had nothing to do with negotiations with Bloomberg, contrary to statements made by the mayor. Instead, it was the five candidate’s support and promise that the Employee Protection Provision (EPP) would be revisited upon the appointment of Bloomberg’s successor.
“They asked if we would return to work in exchange for the upcoming mayor to be willing to work with them,” said Gentile. “We’re in a really good place. We’re in a positive place. We’re going to keep moving forward and fighting for what we want.”
Local 1181 president Michael Cordiello said that while the strike has been suspended, the issues surrounding the strike remain pressing and a responsibility of the city. Cordiello criticized the Bloomberg administration for its tactics during the strike, including the mayor’s refusal to meet with Local 1181 officials to end the strike.
“In January when Mayor Bloomberg is gone, we are comfortable that his entire scheme will be rejected,” said Cordiello. “We are grateful that so many elected leaders in this city are choosing the facts as a path to a conclusion, rather than a conclusion as a path to the facts.”
As routines resumed, parents rejoiced.
“We had to adjust our work schedule to drop her off every day to and from school,” said Kristen Kim, whose daughter attends Mill Neck Manor School in Long Island, a specialized school for children who are hard of hearing. “Thank goodness it’s over for now. The next mayor will have to revisit and hopefully solve this issue.”