Thousands of New York City parents were scrambling to find alternative transportation Wednesday because transit employees serving the city’s public schools have gone on strike.
According to local channel 12 television, more than 152,000 NYC students will be affected as some 8,000 bus drivers and matrons of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union walked off the job. The strike, which union members say the mayor could have prevented, is over job protection. Mayorclaims his hands are tied and that the labor dispute is a private company issue, not a city issue.
The New York Times is reporting that the city had invited private bus companies to bid on the 1,100 bus routes serving students with disabilities; However, drivers for those routes have no job protection and are worried that they will be fired after the new contracts take effect in June. Though Bloomberg said his hands were tied because a 2011 ruling barred the city from forcing the private companies to hire those current drivers and matrons, he admitted that the new contracts would save the city $95 million over the next five years.
Workers are currently walking the picket line in Ridgewood, Queens and all around the city, holding placards high and chanting in defiance through the rain that has been coming down since morning. The last time such a strike took place was 1979—and workers didn’t go back to their jobs for a whopping 14 weeks. Many fear a similar scenario and parents are understandably upset.
One mom from Staten Island complained of the inconvenience, on top of dealing with the devastating aftermath of super storm Sandy. She said she had three daughters who go to different schools and getting all there will now be a herculean feat. She is also worried about being repeatedly late for work. Employers will not be happy either if their employees have to miss days because they are frantically trying to get their children to school. Another parent said it took her two hours to get her child to school.
Outside of P.S.811K in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, is empty where it use to have a line of bright yellow school buses waiting this time of day, a scene that is sure to be repeated throughout the five boroughs..Many schools will probably see lots of absences today—which was expected, especially special needs children, who absolutely depend on those school buses.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said during a press conference on Tuesday night that the city will provide metro cards and reimburse parents who use taxis or other alternative transportation. Parents can check out the Dept. of Education's full set of rules here or visit city's website here http://on.nyc.gov/SAmJCx for more.
Come on, Mayor Bloomberg, we know you can do something about this strike if you want to. After being hit by that monster storm Sandy, New Yorkers do not need another headache on top of the giant migraine many are still dealing with.
Finding alternative arrangements for our children, especially disabled and elementary-aged students, can be monumental tasks. Throw in parents who work outside the home and we’re talking a nearly impossible feat. Add in those who work outside the home but also work at jobs that do not have sick days, or pay with any kind of benefits where an employee can get time off and still get paid, and we have parents with astronomical stress. Don’t forget the lack of health insurance; there is no going to the doctor when those blood pressure levels peak to hypertension.
This strike is not good for anyone, and the mayor, union officials and bus companies need to all sit down and work through the night if they have to in order to come to some kind of agreement.
What is going on in this country? Our politicians in Washington can’t seem to get it together and neither can our local officials, it appears. Bloomberg has made it quite clear that he is not fond of unions, but he has to work for the good of the people who put him in charge of the city. I know the billionaire bought himself an unheard of third term and has waived his salary for all three, so he has nothing to lose. But that is no excuse for ignoring the situation.
UPDATE 7:00 P.M. ET
Oddly, Mayor Bloomberg joked about the bus strike during a press conference Wednesday, saying that at least "it will not last forever" and will end for sure by June because that is the end of the school year.
But the school bus strike is no laughing matter to New York City parents, who have to look for alternative transportation indefinitely. Bus drivers and matrons walking the picket line show no signs of tiring and negotiations seem woefully stalled.
Bloomberg said New Yorkers are resilient and though it will not be easy, they will surely get through it.
Is the mayor sorely out of touch with just how struggling families survive in the five boroughs?
According to a NY 1 television broadcast, the city is downplaying students attendance on Wednesday, saying there was only about one percent absence reported. They haven't taken into account that 40 percent of special needs students were unable to attend school on the first day of the strike.