FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 18, 2011
MAYOR BLOOMBERG BRIEFS NEW YORKERS ON POTENTIAL SCHOOL BUS STRIKE
The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s remarks as delivered at City Hall today.
“Well, good morning. I am here with Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, Chief Philip Banks from the NYPD, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky because the City has been threatened with what we believe would be an illegal strike by school bus drivers. It would affect more than 152,000 public school students from pre-kindergarten through high school, including more than 13,600 children in pre-kindergarten special education classes.
“The union representing school bus drivers is seeking something that we are not legally allowed to offer: Job guarantees for certain current drivers. The highest court in New York State has ruled unambiguously that the law doesn’t allow that. The law mandates that we seek bids from bus companies in a competitive fashion; it prohibits us from doing what the union wants. So the union is threatening an illegal strike that would harm the education of more than 152,000 students if it doesn’t get its way. And that’s just outrageous.
“And that is why the City has asked the National Labor Relations Board for an ‘unfair labor practice’ ruling against the union. We’ve also asked the Board to seek an injunction in federal court.
“Now the reason for this possible strike is that the Department of Education’s contract for bus services for special education pre-k students and ‘early intervention’ pre-k students expires next June. And DOE has put out a bid for a new contract; this needs to go forward now so that bus service is in place in time for the 2012 school year.
“The drivers’ union, Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, wants the bid proposal to include employee protection provisions for current drivers – something that has never been included in pre-K bus contracts, and something the State Court of Appeals has ruled we cannot do. Without this provision, the union has said it is prepared to call a system-wide strike.
“If and when a strike should happen, we are going to do everything possible to help parents who rely on school buses to get their children to school safely. The steps we are taking are described in a letter that is going home with students today. There are copies available for the reporters here, and for those watching on television or online, it’s also available on the city’s web site at nyc.gov.
“Let me run through its main elements now. First all schools will remain open, and any information we have about disruptions to bus service will be posted on our website at nyc.gov. We urge parents and guardians whose children rely on yellow bus service – for pre-K or K-12 service –to regularly check the website for updates. The information will also be provided to the media and to 311.
“In the event that a strike occurs, the following protocols will take effect for families of students who currently receive yellow bus service. For all students who are currently receiving yellow bus service from a designated school bus stop to school, we will be issuing MetroCards. And I am happy to say that the MTA Chairman Joe Lhota has made 300,000 MetroCards available to us. They are being made available at schools and should be requested through the school’s general office. Each card is good for a ride to and from, about $4.50 if I remember correctly, and each day you can get one for the following day. We have already informed the MTA that it may need to accommodate additional riders because of the extra usage of their system.
“We also ask families to consider alternative means of transportation to school in case of a disruption to bus service.
“Parents of pre-school and school-age children with individualized education plans, or what we call IEPs, requiring transportation from their homes directly to their school, as well as parents of children in grades K-2, may request a MetroCard for a parent or guardian to act as the child’s escort to school. For these pre-school and school-age children who have an IEP requiring transportation from their homes directly to their school, we are also offering a reimbursement system for transportation costs.
“Finally, field trips using yellow bus service will be cancelled if there is a bus service disruption. After school programs will remain open, but no busing will be provided.
“Now we know this is a very difficult situation for all of us and we understand that it may be very upsetting to our students and our families. Every parent or guardian must evaluate the needs of his or her child in terms of making the best arrangement to transport the child to school.
“Students who arrive at school late because of disruptions to yellow bus service will be excused for up to two hours. Children who are unable to attend school because of disruptions to yellow bus service will be marked absent with an explanation code that will ensure their attendance record is not negatively affected.
“We recognize a strike could be a major disturbance in the lives of students and their families, and we continue to hope that the bus driver and escort union will not take such unwarranted action in response to what is the proper, legal course for the Department of Education to take on behalf of our students and the City’s taxpayers.”
Stu Loeser/Julie Wood (212) 788-2958
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