On Wednesday 8,000 New York City school bus drivers and aides went on strike in the nation’s largest school system. The city has offered public transit Metrocards and taxi cab reimbursements to over one hundred thousand school children who are being affected by the strike. The workers, who are part of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, are protesting an attempt by the city to open up bidding for new bus routes without ensuring union jobs for current employees.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose personal net worth is about $25 billion dollars, is claiming that the city is spending far too much money on busing students compared to other major school systems. The average New York City school bus driver makes about $35,000 dollars per year. The cost of running the entire bus program is about $1 billion dollars out of a total school budget of over $24 billion.
Critics have pointed out that the cost of busing has increased in large part due to Bloomberg’s own policies which increased school choice and allowed parents to send children to schools which were outside their area. Another factor has been the large increase in the number of special-ed kids who are more likely to use the buses.
The last time bus drivers went on strike was over thirty years ago in 1979. At that time workers were able to put in place an ‘employment protection provision’ after a very similar attempt to eliminate union jobs. Michael Cordiello who is the head of Local 1181 has promised to continue the strike until job security can be guaranteed.
GUEST: Larry Hanley, International President of the Amalgamated Transit Union
Visit www.atu.org for more information.