January 17, 2013
By Marc Bussanich and Joe Maniscalco
The Amalgamated Transportation Union Local 1181 began striking this morning at bus depots throughout the city. Michael Cordiello addressed the media outside a bus depot in Queens and called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott to end the strike by dropping the city’s demand to eliminate provisions that have been the foundation of labor contracts for over 30 years.
“It’s unfortunate that those who are hurt the most by the Mayor’s and school chancellor’s actions are the city’s most vulnerable school children and their parents,” said Cordiello.
Cordiello believes that an agreement can still be reached, but a resolution will be difficult if the Mayor insists on an inapplicable legal argument.
After the union went on strike in 1979, the city, the union and private bus companies agreed to create the Employee Protection Provision (EPP) as one way to prevent labor strife. The provision ensures that experienced drivers are hired before newer drivers, protects existing wage scales and preserves the defined benefit pension plan, which the city does not contribute to.
But the Mayor claimed in an afternoon press conference that a Court of Appeals judge recently ruled that the city is no longer legally bound to support the EPP, and in fact would be illegal if it did.
The union contests that claim.
“Despite public pronouncements, it is not illegal for EPPs to be part of the bidding process. How can it be illegal to put experienced bus drivers and matrons on a school bus,” Cordiello said.
“The Mayor and Chancellor are making dubious claims that they can’t sit down and legally negotiate a settlement of the contract—it’s absolutely false.”
The Mayor reiterated that the city spends more on transporting children to school than other cities in the country, and also noted that any savings derived from new contracts put out to bid could be reinvested back into the classrooms.
Cordiello said that the Mayor was being disingenuous on the potential cost savings from new contracts. Local 1181 matrons and bus drivers earn a starting salary of $11 and $14 an hour, respectively, according to the union.
“How much can the Mayor get from us to pay for classroom instruction? He shouldn’t be pitting us against the teachers.”
When asked how long the union is willing to stay on strike, Cordiello said, “The fact of the matter is that in June, 2,500 of our members will be out of work. He [Mayor Bloomberg] has put our back to the wall. We have no choice but to fight for our jobs and fight for the safety of the children of the city of New York.”