NYC School Bus Driver Strike Ends With No Gains for Union

Last Friday, a vote by New York City’s school bus union leadership brought to an end the school bus strike that has been in effect for nearly a month. The vote means that more than 8,000 drivers and support personnel will be heading back to work this week, without any concrete movement from the Bloomberg administration on any of their demands.

According to the statement released by the union leadership, the strike came to an end because the five Democratic mayoral candidates looking to succeed Bloomberg when his last term wraps up this year, have pledged to open talks with the union once they are sworn in in 2014.

Because of this strike, we have gained the support of many political allies in the city, in the state,” Michael Cordiello, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, said on a conference call to members. He said the strike was successful in raising awareness of their cause.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg also declared victory.

“For decades, the monopolistic bus contract process benefited the bus companies and unions at the expense of the city’s taxpayers and students—but no longer,” he said.

The drivers walked off the job when Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that transportation companies were no longer going to be required to fill open jobs strictly by seniority. A 2011 decision by the state court said that such clauses were illegal, but the union argued that the decision didn’t apply to the routes under discussion.

Although the first week of the strike was chaotic, as the action dragged on, the 150,000 effected students made adjustments. According to The Wall Street Journal, the attendance for regular schools went back up to 90% in the last week of the strike, and that of special-needs students – who were more effected by lack of transportation – rose to 78%.

Larry Hanley, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said he had been in talks with Democratic mayoral candidates to figure out a “creative way” to end the strike.

The five candidates—City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, Comptroller John Liu and former City Councilman Sal Albanese—signed a letter asking them to return to work.

Although Republican candidate for Mayor Joseph Lhota praised the ending of the strike, he chided his Democratic opponents for bowing down to the union. As Lhota put it, by signing the letter and agreeing to keep the issue open, the candidates were clearly content to maintain the status quo at the expense of students’ needs.