January 22, 2013
Mayor Michael Bloomberg insists that the city cannot legally negotiate with the school bus drivers union to end the strike. But ATU Local 1181’s counsel, Richard Gilberg, said the Mayor and the schools chancellor are misleading the public because the city negotiated a settlement when the union last struck in 1979.
At the heart of the dispute is the Employment Protection Provision, which has been a mainstay of labor contracts signed between the union, the city and the private school bus operators since 1965. When the provision was stripped from bids in 1979, the union struck for 13 weeks.
According to Gilberg, the provision was enacted to create an incentive for people to stay in the industry so that an experienced workforce could safely transport children to school.
“The point [of the EPP] is not about wages. An EPP is a master seniority list in the industry. A company can actually hire a cheaper worker,” said Gilberg.
For example, if a non-union driver with 15 years experience earning only $10 an hour applies for a job and is competing with a union worker with five years’ experience at $20 an hour, the non-union worker has first dibs.
Bloomberg and Dennis Walcott also have said that the city cannot legally include the EPP in the new bids based on a decision by the lead judge for the state Court of Appeals in 2006. At the time, school bus operators in the pre-K industry, which doesn’t have a history of EPP usage, sued the city over the introduction of the provision.
According to Gilberg, the city did not argue persuasively in favor of the EPP during the litigation stemming from the 2006 lawsuit. As a result, the Court of Appeals ruled that the EPP didn’t comport with competitive bidding laws. (See video)