Mayor Bloomberg just held a press conference with NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo to address a possible strike by the city’s school bus drivers that would affect 152,000 kids.
Bloomberg described the proposed strike as “just outrageous” and said that “the city has been threatened with what we believe is an illegal strike.” The disagreement stems from a Department of Education request for bids for new school bus service for special education pre-kindergarten kids. Local 1181 of the bus drivers’ union wants an employee protection provision for long-term employees, something that the city says has never been included in the contract.
Bloomberg said that the city has asked the National Labor Relations Board to seek an injunction in federal court. Though the current contract, which expires in June 2012, only pertains to drivers of pre-K buses, the proposed strike would be system-wide.
In the event of a system-wide strike, Bloomberg and Walcott presented a plan for parents to get their kids to school. The MTA would provide 300,000 MetroCards for students who use school buses, and schools would remain open. For students with an IEP, transportation costs could be reimbursed. Students who are up to two hours late to school because of the strike will not have their lateness counted against them, and those who can’t get to school at all will have their absences noted with a special code that excuses them.
Walcott said the potential strike was “nothing short of shameful” and said that “we continue to hope that the bus driver and escort union will reconsider.”
As for the legality of a strike, NYC Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo said that “it is illegal, we believe, for a union to strike a third party. We’re a third party. Under the law it’s illegal for a union to strike its employer to coerce us to do something.”
The union hasn’t said when the strike would be occurring. The DOE sent home a letter with students today explaining about the strike and what would happen if it goes down.