January 31, 2013
Union leaders from the Amalgamated Transit Union announced on Wednesday at 32BJ’s offices that they offered an option to end the two-week old school bus strike, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg rebuked them. Read more and watch video
During negotiations at City Hall on Monday between the union and school bus operators, which the Mayor organized but did not attend, the president of the city’s Central Labor Council, Vincent Alvarez, submitted a letter to the mediator calling for a 60-day cooling off period to stop the strike for members to return back to work if the city suspended a planned special education transportation bid. But the Mayor rejected the offer and still refuses to negotiate with the union and school bus operators.
Hanley said that the Mayor’s reason for not talking with the union, although the union tried to meet with the Mayor for over a year to resolve disagreement over employee protection provisions, equates to a fairy tale.
“Until December 21, they refused to even acknowledge that this was a discussion in City Hall. And then on December 21, the Mayor declared that we were going on strike based upon his action and then he told the city a story that really belongs in Aesop’s Fables about the reason for his decision,” said Hanley.
Hanley and Cordiello say that the Mayor is distorting the economics of the school bus industry by blaming the increasing transportation costs on the bus drivers and matrons who earn a starting salary of $14 and $11 an hour, respectively. Apparently, the employers have told the union that the increasing costs for transporting special education students stem from changes in the way the program is administered, a huge expansion in the number of buses and vans the city deploys and servicing a large population of special education students—the highest in the country.
“These are the kinds of things that have driven the costs of the school transportation budget in this town. Those facts need to be known, they need to be explored and there can be no rational conclusion to this discussion without giving everybody in this city the opportunity to know what is driving up costs,” said Hanley.
As the Mayor refuses to negotiate, the union leaders said, when asked where things go from here, “The strike continues.”