Union officials representing New York City's school bus drivers have announced their intentions to strike; the strike would commence Wednesday morning. If followed through, the move could leave many students without a ride to school and officials clamoring to resolve the issue.
The decision to strike was sparked after New York City placed 1,100 of its bus routes up for competitive bidding. Opponents claim this goes against a 1979 ruling that input job protection measures in order to prevent such acts and to ensure that "the best quality of driver" would be hired.
The bus routes in question make up about one-sixth of the city's total bus routes and would affect the transportation of 22,500 students — all of whom are special needs children, ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade.
So far, the union claims that 8,800 bus drivers and matrons have expressed their desire to participate in the strike; this would leave over 150,000 students without a ride to school come Wednesday morning. The strike would also be the first by the union in over 30 years — despite similar threats in years past.
New York City's Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, also held a press conference on Monday to provide details of his contingency plan, on the occasion that the union does indeed strike. Bloomberg announced that the city would be making MetroCards available to students and parents, in order to provide transportation. In addition, if some students are still unable to attend school or are tardy, the district will offer a reprieve and such absences would not be counted against students during the strike.
Mayor Bloomberg also stated his disapproval for the strike and hopes that "the union will reconsider its irresponsible and misguided decision."
The city's decision to put some of their bus routes up for competitive bidding was ushered in after a 2011 ruling was made on the job protection measures. The ruling, at least by the city's understanding, prohibits the inclusion of the job protection measures in any future bus contracts.
However, union lawyer Richard Gilberg contests the city's stance, saying that “there has never been a court ruling that the employee protection provisions are, in all cases, illegal."
The city's decision may have also been influenced by the $1.1 billion that their current public school transportation system costs — leaving one to believe that they may be exploring less expensive options.
Although the strike may be avoided before Wednesday morning, it could also turn into a situation similar to this summer’s Chicago teacher's strike,which kept Chicago's 350,000 students out of school for seven days.
No matter which side of the argument that you may sympathize with if the strike does take place, it appears that the only ones to lost out will be the children and the parents.