Editorials

Mayor stops the buses

In yet another instance of his disregard for New York City’s schools and students, as of Feb. 11, when this newspaper went to press, Mayor Bloomberg was still refusing to intervene in the yellow school bus strike, which began on Jan. 16.

The mayor claims that the drivers and matrons’ dispute is with the bus companies that employ them and that he is powerless to intervene — but that is patently false. The drivers are not city employees — hence their ability to strike — and must ultimately negotiate wages and benefits with the bus companies. But it is the mayor’s insistence on putting up 1,100 bus routes to bid without including job security measures in the new contracts that has aroused the ire of the workers. And that’s something he can control.

The workers, represented by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, aren’t asking for anything out of the ordinary. The Employee Protection Provision, which requires bus companies to hire drivers and other employees based on seniority, has been a standard feature of yellow school bus contracts since 1979.

Indeed, it’s been common practice in the construction and building trades for decades that companies have to respect the job security and seniority rights of the unionized workforce when contracts are up for bid.

The city has never made an issue of the Employee Protection Provision until now. Bloomberg says that’s because a recent court ruling prohibits him from including the provision in new contracts, but he hasn’t done much to hide his real motive: The mayor wants to bust the union.

Bloomberg touts the money that the city will save by allowing the bus companies to hire less senior drivers and matrons for less money. But he is silent about the $175 million a year that the city is losing by not filing for Medicaid reimbursement for transportation for the past five years.

The mayor wants to make it impossible for bus drivers to earn a living wage. And while he drags his feet — despite a ruling from the National Labor Relations Board that the bus companies and the city share the title of employer and are therefore both responsible for negotiating an end to the strike — more than 150,000 students, including 54,000 special needs students, have been left stranded.

This is the mayor’s mess and he needs to fix it: Sit down and negotiate fairly with the union.

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