School bus drivers went on strike for the first time since 1979 in all five boroughs of the city Wednesday morning, seeking the addition of a job security clause in their contracts.
At the Atlantic Express Bus depot in Ridgewood, members of Amalgamated Transit Union 1181 took to the streets in four-hour shifts starting at 6 a.m., calling for the inclusion of an Employment Protection Provisions (EPP) clause to their contracts.
“Were all willing to do what we need to do for job security,” stressed Dawn Wensmann, an 1181 bus driver for 18 years. “I think [Mayor Bloomberg ] is not just looking for the cheapest solution, but he’s looking for people who are just not qualified.”
Michael Cordiello, ATU Local 1181 president, assured his drivers that the union is in the right asking the city to include the job security clause, and will not return to the job until Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city officials, who have called their requests illegal, adds it to their contracts.
“EPP is legal,” Cordiello assured his drivers. “The fact that the mayor says he cannot negotiate with us is absolutely false.”
While the union's contracts expired on June 30, Bloomberg says the city is obligated by a ruling in the 2011 Court of Appeals to place the contract out to bid, making their requests infeasible.
“It’s just irrational for us to keep spending this kind of money, and we’re going to find out whether there is an alternative by putting the contracts out to bid,” Bloomberg said. “That’s what the law requires us to do. It just hasn’t been done since 1979, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility to do it.”
Over 150,000 students had to find another way to school this morning during the strike while roughly 40 percent of the schools buses sat in their yards, according to Bloomberg.
Magdlena Draghici drove from Glendale to pick up her granddaughter from P.S. 58 in Maspeth, while her own daughter is in the hospital.
“It's very hard,” Draghici said. “We have a job to do and it is tough in the early morning and middle of the day to get the child to school.”