Thursday, January 17, 2013

NYC school bus strike: Protecting middle-class jobs against wealthy predators

Teamsters Local 854 President Danny Gatto speaks to the media about the importance of the Employee Protection Provision.
The New York City school bus worker strike is in its second day as Teamsters honor picket lines wherever their contract allows.

Teamsters Local 854 represents about 1,000 school bus drivers, matrons and mechanics. Most of the school bus workers are represented by Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Unsurprisingly, New York's billionaire mayor is trying to smear bus drivers and matrons. Matthew Cunningham Cook sets the record straight in The Nation:
...the city is seeking to open a competitive bidding process for city contracts without guaranteeing job security provisions for those currently employed. But while decision-makers in the city claim that this is about fiscal responsibility, what it would do in practice is enrich wealthy contractors at the taxpayer’s dime while undermining solid middle-class jobs... 
Demanding a new competitive bidding process for school bus contractors while defenestrating job security for experienced drivers is ultimately a gloss for the Mayor’s free-spending contracting policies, which have resulted in such cost overruns as the CityTime scandal (costing more than $600 million) and the Emergency Communications Transformation Program (costing more than $250 million). The city’s largest municipal union, AFSCME District Council 37, has been exposing the details of Bloomberg’s contracting policies, to (unfortunately) little media attention. 
...The city has more than 3,000 contractors who continue to receive city contracts despite failing to meet the conditions of prior contracts, yet it is school bus drivers making $35,000 per year who are somehow to blame for the city’s fiscal woes.
Cook asks the crucial question:
Should we have experienced bus drivers making a living wage taking care of disabled children, or should the city be a playground for the rich, with low-wage jobs for everyone else?
And here is a letter from an angry New York City parent to Richard Scarpa, director of the city's Pupil Transportation Bureau:
My son ... goes to PS 19. Since Thomas was assigned a bus route in September his driver and matron have picked him up and dropped him off every single day without being absent. Scott and Gaston are caring and conscientious. I have experienced it firsthand. 
There have been situations that I have personally witnessed where students were engaging in very difficult behaviors and the bus staff handled the situation so well and so professionally, that I wasn't concerned about my son's safety. He is in good hands. 
I am totally and completely disgusted with the administration's disregard toward the stability to workers and for their callous regard towards special needs children. 
These trained professionals deserve a fair wage. They deserve decent benefits. And as important, they deserve job security. 
On the flip side, the parents of special needs children need the security of knowing that our children are safe and frankly that the bus personnel are trained, experienced and care about our kids. 
I will be outside picketing with the drivers in support. I have been following all of the parent blogs and e-mails lists and frankly, the administration is sorely underestimating the parents devotion to these important people.
Stay tuned.