NYC School Bus Strike Starting Wednesday

NEW YORK (AP/Hamodia) -

Michael Cordiello, the president of the union representing New York City school bus drivers, Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, says a strike will start Wednesday morning, and that more than 8,000 bus drivers and matrons will be taking part.

The strike will affect more than 150,000 New York City public and private school students.

The city wants to cut transportation costs and has put bus contracts with private bus companies up for bid. The union representing the drivers is decrying the lack of employee protections, saying drivers could suddenly lose their jobs once their contracts are up in June.

“With its regrettable decision to strike, the union is abandoning 152,000 students and their families who rely on school bus service each day,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a press conference Monday afternoon. “As Chancellor Walcott and I have said, the City will take all steps available to ensure that those who are impacted have the support they need, and we are now activating the protocols we put in place in the event of a strike. Let me be clear: the union’s decision to strike has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with job protections that the City legally cannot include in its bus contracts. We hope that the union will reconsider its irresponsible and misguided decision to jeopardize our students’ education.”

Rabbi Moshe Ausfresser, Jewish Liaison for the Office of Pupil Transportation, NYC Department of Education, told Hamodia, “We are going to prepare our strike plans and email all the yeshivos tomorrow” to inform them that they should distribute Metrocards to the students. OPT sent these out to yeshivah offices at the end of last week.

Students in Grade 3-6 will receive Metrocards, and children in Grades K-2 are entitled to two Metrocards, one for children and one for an adult to accompany the child.

The fare can be used on buses or trains; students’ cards should work for three trips a day, and adult cards should work for two trips a day — coming to school and going from school.

For those for whom there is no viable public-transportation alternative, there are the options of being reimbursed either for a car service ride or for the mileage driven in a private car. Parents are urged to keep all receipts so they can be reimbursed.

The DOE has informed the MTA that it may need to be prepared to accommodate additional riders, and has arranged for additional school crossing guards at busy intersections, said Councilman David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn). The councilman is urging neighbors to carpool whenever possible to reduce the impact and disruptions to the community and students caused by a strike.

“I urge parents to plan now so that their child’s education does not suffer as a result
of a work stoppage,” said Greenfield. “At the same time, I am calling on the city and the union to continue round-the-clock negotiations to prevent a strike from occurring.”

“After Hurricane Sandy, this just adds more confusion,” said Rabbi Ausfresser. “It distracts from education to have students’ routines disrupted in this way. It’s unfortunate.”

Any parents with problems receiving MetroCards or travel reimbursements after the strike starts should contact Councilman Greenfield’s office at (718) 853-2704 for assistance.

The city has prepared alternate ways of getting to school should the strike occur:

  • Students who currently receive yellow school bus service can receive a MetroCard through their individual school’s general office.

In addition, parents of pre-school children or general education children in grades K-2 who require an escort to school, or school-age children with Individualized Education Programs who require transportation from their home directly to school, can also obtain a MetroCard from their child’s school office to accompany their child to school.

  • The DOE is offering reimbursement for some travel costs incurred by parents whose children receive busing directly from their home or for students in Grades K-6 who live in areas where there is no viable public transportation option available. Parents who drive their children will be reimbursed at a rate of 55 cents per mile, and parents who use a car service will be reimbursed for the cost of the trip upon completion of reimbursement forms and submission of a receipt.

Reimbursement forms are available at each school’s general office and should be mailed along with all car service receipts to the Transportation Reimbursement Unit at 44-36 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City, New York 11101, on a weekly basis until the strike ends.

  • Students who arrive at public school late because of transit disruptions will be excused for up to two hours, and children who are absent because of the strike will be marked absent with an explanation code that will ensure their attendance record is not negatively impacted.