January 25, 2013
By Council Member Jumaane D. Williams
Over the last decade, the Bloomberg administration has often taken to the public sphere to project a hostile stance towards labor. Whether it has been the fight for a living wage or the struggle to keep working-class jobs, the most progressive city in the world has been represented in negotiations by obstinate leadership.
This has unfortunately reached a new low with the breakdown between the Department of Education (DOE) and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1181. Thousands of bus drivers and matrons went on strike last week in an
effort to keep their employee protection provisions in place. Their concern is a legitimate one, one that ought to be debated thoughtfully at the bargaining table with the Mayor and the Chancellor.
However, the harsh rhetoric that has come from City Hall has been nothing short of divisive. To suggest that strikers are endeavoring to endanger the safety of children by "holding our students hostage" is unfair and harmful to restarting negotiations and putting people back to work. These working men and women are on the same side as parents in this fight; it is all about caring for our students, especially those with special needs, and ensuring that they get the best professional care and attention.
Parents are pleading for a speedy resolution to this bus strike so they can remain at their jobs with peace of mind regarding their children's well-being. The fastest way to get there is to end the villainization of bus drivers and matrons in the media and discuss short and long-term solutions to protect jobs and stabilize costs. Labor and government must work together to provide a quality education system for New York's sons and daughters. The latter cannot constantly be at war with the former.