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February 15, 2013
City school bus drivers union weighing request to end strike
Months of tortuous and torturous commutes could end as soon as next week for the tens of thousands of students whose school bus drivers have been on strike for the last month. Five mayoral candidates who have supported the drivers' demands for seniority protections in city contracts have asked the Amalgamated Transit Union to end the strike, and the union's national and local leaders have said they are considering the request. The leaders are scheduled to address members during a conference call tonight. Reports the New York Times: A decision to return to work would represent a major victory for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who had begun to strip the employee protections in contracts that the city signed with the private companies who run the buses. ...
February 12, 2013
Walcott: Strike absences shouldn't exempt students from exams
Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said on Monday that she thinks students who have missed weeks of school due to the city's school bus strike should not have to take the year's state math and reading tests. Today, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said they should. Speaking at a briefing for reporters about bids for new contracts the city received from bus companies, he said, They should sit [for the tests]. This year has been a very dramatic year for our students, both with the hurricane [Sandy] and with this strike, but we’ve also been working very closely with the schools and working with our principals and providing materials for parents to receive at home as well.
February 8, 2013
At bus driver strike hearing, Walcott bats away council criticism
Chancellor Dennis Walcott takes questions from Robert Jackson during a City Council hearing on the school bus strike. Agitated City Council members spent more than two hours today grilling Chancellor Dennis Walcott about the city's refusal to restore job protections for school bus drivers or intervene in their nearly monthlong strike. The hearing took place more than three weeks into the strike on a day when many families' tenuous transportation plans were complicated by the start of a snowstorm. Attendance in schools for students with disabilities, which have been hardest-hit by the strike, fell from 76 percent on Thursday to just 50 percent today. Maria Uruchima, whose nightmarish commute includes 8 buses and 4 trains, said her son wasn't feeling well, "so I just kept him home because it's going to be crazy out anyways." Even before the inclement weather, at least 2,500 students who attend schools in District 75, which serve special education students with the highest needs, "were still home," Maggie Moroff, Special Education Policy Coordinator at Advocates for Children, said in her prepared remarks. For students that made it to school, Moroff said parents sacrificed hours of their work days to get them there and many students arrived late anyway.
February 6, 2013
Policies to help parents cope with strike fall short, advocates say
Leilany Andrade left P.S. 224 on Tuesday, after her first day back since the school bus strike began. Edith Rodriguez’s daughter Leilany Andrade went back to school on Tuesday for the first time since the bus strike began three weeks ago. Andrade, a first grader, has special needs and requires a classroom environment not available in her neighborhood. So she attends P224, a District 75 school in northern Queens not served by the subway. Rodriguez and her husband would have to spend six to eight hours a day in transit — with their three-year-old son in tow — if they wanted to take Leilany to school and pick her up. And they couldn’t afford to front the money for cab fare or miss their shifts at the bakery where she works mornings and the restaurant where he works afternoons. So they kept Leilany home. "All the last two weeks, she was asking me, 'Why aren't I going to school, when can I go back?'" Rodriguez said. "I tried to explain to her a little that there were no buses." Leilany's story is one of many advocates say show that the Department of Education's efforts to support families during the bus strike have fallen short.
January 30, 2013
City turns down school bus drivers union's offer to pause strike
Striking bus drivers picketed outside the Department of Education's headquarters at Tweed Courthouse on Monday. A union proposal to suspend the city's two-week-old school bus strike temporarily got a swift rejection this week from city officials, who said the plan would block cost-cutting measures for over a year. The bus drivers union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, called a press conference today to announce that the city had turned down its proposal for a two-to-three month “cooling off” period during which drivers would return to work and the city would not solicit bids for new transportation contracts. The union called the strike because the city is not including seniority protections for current drivers in the new contracts' terms. In a mediation session organized but not attended by the city, union president Michael Cordiello met on Monday with Justice Milton Mollen, who brokered an agreement to end the last bus strike, in 1979, and representatives from several major bus companies.
January 23, 2013
As bus strike finishes first week, city working to mitigate impact
The city is taking new steps to get students to school after a full week without regular school bus service. With attendance in schools for students with disabilities below two-thirds for the fifth straight day, the Department of Education is moving both to help families with transportation and to get new bus drivers on the road faster. Department officials announced today that they had revised the terms of the contracts that they plan to offer bus companies so that the companies can begin transporting students sooner than Sept. 1, the original date the new contracts were supposed to begin. It was the department's omission of seniority protections from the contract terms that led the school bus drivers union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, to call a strike last week. The department also unveiled details of a new initiative, first announced at a meeting about special education last week, to assist families with transportation costs.
January 18, 2013
City Could Ease Strike’s Financial Burden On Families
The Department of Education will begin helping families who cannot afford to wait to have their transportation costs reimbursed during the school bus strike, the department's top special education official told the Citywide Council on Special Education Thursday night. ... This sounds like a great partial solution. But it does not solve the fact that this strike has put unnecessary stress on over 150,000 students, including 52,000 with disabilities, and their families.
January 16, 2013
Even as some buses roll, families struggle on strike's first day
Kayley, a student at Central Park East 2 (with head turned), traveled to school with his mother today. He took a city bus instead of a yellow bus because of a strike by school bus drivers. Families across the city contended with unfamiliar transportation routes, incomplete information, and bad weather to get their children to school this morning, the first during a strike called by the bus drivers union. Most bus drivers did not report to work today to protest the city's decision not to extend seniority protections to current drivers when opening bids for new contracts with bus companies. Their union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, also picketed outside some bus depots, in some cases briefly impeding non-union bus companies from operating, and released a television ad that paints new bus drivers as dangerous. But the Department of Education said 40 percent of buses actually did roll today, including 100 percent of routes serving children in prekindergarten. Those bus drivers work under contracts negotiated last year. Just 12 percent of routes for students in general education were running today, while 60 percent of routes serving students with special needs were disrupted. Preliminary data showed strong attendance citywide, Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced at a city press conference where he praised parents for "being really focused on getting their kids to school." But he said attendance at District 75 schools, which serve the city's most disabled students, was down by about a quarter today.
January 14, 2013
School bus drivers say they will strike starting on Wednesday
The city school bus drivers union announced today that its members would strike starting Wednesday over the city's plan for new contracts with bus companies. After more than a year of strike threats, city school bus drivers will walk off the job on Wednesday, their union announced today. The work stoppage means that more than 150,000 students — including many with severe disabilities — will have to find their own way to school. All students affected by the strike who can get to school using public transportation will receive Metrocards, and the city will reimburse families who must drive or hire cars for the commute to and from school. Still, city officials say they expect that the burden of providing transportation will lead at least some families to keep their children home. The strike also means that the city's streets will be clear of yellow buses for the first time since 1979, when the city ended a three-month strike by extending new protections for drivers. The strike comes as the city prepares to seek contracts with bus companies in an effort to cut student transportation costs, which are the highest in the country. The drivers’ union, Amalgamated Transit Union’s Local 1181, wants a guarantee that current employees won’t lose their jobs even if the companies they work for do not win a new contract. But the city, citing a 2011 legal ruling, says it cannot make such a promise. "Have you ever heard of a strike where one side is demanding something that the courts have ruled illegal?" Mayor Bloomberg said today during a press conference just before the union officially declared the strike. "It is just meshugana, as we say in Gaelic."
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