By Phil Corso
City officials prepared for the worst as union bus drivers said they would strike Wednesday morning, leaving more than 150,000 students without rides to school, the Department of Education said.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced several precautions the city would take in the coming days to soften the blow of the bus drivers’ Wednesday walkout, including posting additional transit officers, school safety officers, and crossing guards throughout the city.
“Though the city cannot legally do what the bus drivers’ union wants, they are threatening a strike that would impact our students and families,” Walcott said earlier in the day before the bus drivers’ union set a date for the work stoppage. “The city is prepared to provide those who use yellow bus service with the support they need, and put other resources to use if a strike is called. Our goal is to make sure students get to school and to pursue contracts that are safe and more reasonably priced, so that we can direct those savings in the classroom where they belong.”
Union drivers with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 had threatened to strike for several weeks in the wake of an ongoing conflict between the ATU and employers that work for the DOE, with drivers demanding job security in any new bus contracts awarded by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office.
ATU Local 1181 President Michael Cordiello said drivers were left without options while employers try to make them settle for less than they believe they deserve. He announced the drivers would strike Wednesday morning.
“This is not a decision we arrived at lightly, but it is an action we must take,” Cordiello said. “The mayor can end the strike by negotiating with us.”
Bloomberg said the city was taking the necessary steps to prepare for the looming strike.
“Let me be clear: the union’s decision to strike has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with job protections that the City legally cannot include in its bus contracts,” Bloomberg said in a statement Monday afternoon. “We hope that the union will reconsider its irresponsible and misguided decision to jeopardize our students’ education.”
In anticipation of a strike, Walcott announced several protocols last week to help families of students who rely on yellow bus service, making MetroCards available to students and parents and also posting crucial material covered in schools online for students to follow from home.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.