With Strike Over, What’s Next for NYC School Bus Drivers?
New York City school bus drivers and matrons are back to work this week, after striking for a month in defense of job security measures known as Employee Protection Provisions. Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I-NY) has maintained that the city doesn’t have the money or the authority to offer the protections.
Without question, the strike's end is a setback for drivers, and some also see it as a blow to parents and students.
As Campus Progress reported last month, the strike is a pitched battle in a wider ideological conflict over how public services should be managed. Are New York City parents and drivers locked in a zero-sum game, as Bloomberg would suggest, in which a dollar more to drivers is a dollar less for taxpayers? Or do they have a symbiotic relationship, in which an investment in drivers is also an investment in children?
“In the city’s entire history, the special interests have never had less power than they do today, and the end of this strike reflects the fact that when we say we put children first, we mean it," Bloomberg said in a statement last week.
“School transportation is not a luxury, particularly for students with disabilities—it is a civil right recognized under several federal and state statutes,” said Sara Catalinotto, an organizer with Parents to Improve School Transportation and Manhattan mother of two. “There are places that you could trim the fat, but not in the salaries of workers. That's ridiculous,” she told Campus Progress.
The average driver makes about $35,000, and supporters like Catalinotto argue that well-trained drivers are needed for the delicate job of transporting children, many of whom have special needs.
Drivers and matrons haven't given up and are taking their fight to state legislators in Albany. Several candidates that will seek to replace Bloomberg as mayor in this year’s election have also pledged their support.
But without job protections, for now drivers will have to rely on their reputation alone to keep their posts and pay. “It’s up to the good graces of the companies whether to hire [experienced drivers] or hire somebody fresh off the street,” Catalinotto said.
Chris Lewis is a reporter at Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @chris_lewis_.