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Dolman: School bus drivers strike sacrifices children for questionable contract provision

Children ride on a school bus in East

Children ride on a school bus in East Harlem. The bus drivers union has announced that more than 8,000 drivers and matrons will go on strike. (Jan. 6, 2010) (Credit: Getty Images)

So why are the 8,800 school bus drivers of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1811 planning to strike on Wednesday morning?

If you watch the union’s television ads, you might think it’s because New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg would rather pinch pennies than invest in the safety of children by giving the drivers more job security. 

“This is about safety and experience,” says Local 1811 President Michael Cordiello, “We handle and transport the most precious cargo in New York City,”


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But wait, says Bloomberg—the city pays out an incredible $1.1 billion a year to transport more than 150,000 students—or about $6,900 per child. That's too much. Something’s got to give.

As the city solicits competitive bids from private companies for about 1,100 of its routes, the union is demanding a job security clause for its members—known as an Employee Protection Provision—in the new contracts. The city says it has been legally barred from doing that.

It does seem to have a point.

The New York State Court of Appeals was asked in 2011 to decide if a bid solicitation for a city school transportation contract was in keeping with public bidding laws.

“We conclude,” said the court, “that the Employee Protection Provisions contained in the solicitation are subject to heightened scrutiny.”

The court pointedly noted that the city’s Department of Education had not shown that the Employee Protection Provisions were meant to “save the public money, encourage robust competition or prevent favoritism.”

But the union wants its provision anyway—and it’s willing to wreak havoc among the families of 150,000 children to advance its goal. Just one question: How is this strategy supposed to succeed? 

Tags: school bus , strike , new york city , union , michael bloomberg

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