January 15, 2013
The president of ATU Local 1181, Michael Cordiello, said this evening that the union’s school bus drivers and matrons will be going on strike on Wednesday morning.
Since 1979, the Employee Protection Provision (EPP) has been a mainstay of the contracts signed between the union and the bus companies for transporting special education and general education children to school.
But the city recently issued bids for new contracts that cover 1,100 bus routes, or about one-sixth of the Department of Education’s total routes, for transporting 22,500 children with special needs.
The dispute centers on job protection for drivers. The city claims it is no longer legally responsible to include the provision due to a state Court of Appeals ruling, while the union argues that the ruling doesn’t apply to the industry.
“This is not a decision we’ve arrived at lightly, but an action we must take,” said Cordiello.
At a press conference at City Hall earlier in the afternoon, before the union announced its decision to strike at the Sheraton New York Hotel, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “During a prior bid attempt…the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that the city could not legally include the job protection provision the union is demanding. This decision was not just the decision of the Appeals Court, it was the decision written by the head judge of that body.”
The Mayor cited that the city is paying too much for transporting children to school.
“New York City pays $1.1 billion each year for school busing, or an average of $6,900 per student. Los Angeles just pays $3,100 per student.”
He also cited how the city and taxpayers are saving $95 million from contracts for pre-school bus routes put to bid last year, with the savings being redirected to the classroom to pay for teachers.
The union, however, argues that the city is being contradictory because it claimed in court that “….the desirable goal is best quality for lowest cost, as opposed to lowest cost in a vacuum…providing transportation for very young disabled children, an unrelenting focus on the lowest cost is unrealistic and improper…”
In response to the city’s claims that it would now be illegal to insert an EPP in the newest round of contract bids for special needs children, the union asserts that “there has never been a court decision that has decided the legality of the use of the EPP when addressing the needs of special education children, and general education children.”
After the union announced its decision to strike, the Mayor said, “We hope that the union will reconsider its irresponsible and misguided decision to jeopardize our students’ education.”
Standing alongside Mr. Cordiello were the Presidents of the NYC Central Labor Council and state AFL-CIO, Vinny Alvarez and Mario Cilento, as well as ATU’s International President, Larry Hanley, and Transport Workers Union Local 100 President, John Samuelsen.
Cilento said, “School bus drivers and crews are going on strike for one reason and one reason only; the Mayor has decided to put his pride over the safety of New York City children. Rather than admit that he created this problem and can solve it simply by putting safeguards in the bid, he is hiding behind an unrelated court decision that he falsely claims is forcing his hand.”
Asked whether there could be any resolution before Wednesday, Cordiello said, “The city could issue a Request for Proposal that contains an EPP or provide an extension of the labor contract with no bidding.”