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Bus worker cuts nixed

New York Teacher

Michael Bloomberg may think he’s above the law, but he’s not.

Kiyo Matsimoto, a federal judge in Brooklyn, handed the mayor a sharp rebuke when she rescinded wage and benefit cuts that had been unilaterally imposed on school bus drivers and matrons by bus companies, with the mayor’s full support, following their strike last winter.

Matsimoto ruled on Aug. 29 that the cuts violated federal labor law and ordered the 28 bus companies with city contracts to immediately resume “good-faith bargaining” with their union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181.

The cuts — 7.5 percent for drivers and 3.75 percent for bus matrons — were imposed in April in the wake of a turbulent and unsuccessful strike by the union to preserve a job security provision in the contract that requires bus companies to hire drivers and other employees based on seniority.

The companies claimed that they needed to eliminate the provision in order to remain competitive with other bus companies bidding for contracts with the city. The mayor said he wanted the provision gone because its elimination would save the city money.

The subsequent wage and benefit cuts, which had the mayor’s blessing, were a kick in the teeth for the union and its members. The loss of the job security provision has left the bus drivers and matrons vulnerable to replacement by new, lower-paid workers when the current contracts between the city and the bus companies expire. But the bus companies couldn’t wait; they went ahead and slashed wages and benefits immediately. Their actions revealed their real motive: greed. The mayor, by supporting them, showed he was less interested in saving the city money than in breaking the union.

The judge’s decision didn’t just consider the legal issues surrounding the workers’ collective-bargaining rights, but also the economic impact the cuts would have on matrons and drivers whose pay maxes out at $28,000 and $50,000, respectively.

The workers have now been vindicated in a court of law. Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg has been revealed to be what we have known all along: a mean-spirited union-buster who flouts the law and picks on the vulnerable.