School Bus Drivers Hit the Brakes and Go On Strike in New York City


PHOTO: Larry Darling
PHOTO: Larry Darling

School bus drivers in New York City were on strike from January 16 to February 15, 2013. As members of the Amalgamated Transit Union, they wanted the city to add to their contract that the most experienced bus drivers would keep their jobs even if the city started using different bus companies, which the drivers thought would keep the kids safe. Mayor Bloomberg said he wanted to get new bus drivers or pay the current bus drivers less to save the city money.

During the strike, teachers and parents were upset because 150,000 kids in the city did not have a way to get to school. Most of the kids who were affected have special needs.

“Many of our students have to find another way to school,” said Sarah Francis, a teacher at P.S. 86 in the Bronx. “We also have to cancel field trips without buses.”

The longest NYC bus strike was in 1979 and lasted 14 weeks. That strike ended in victory, and a clause (section) was added to the bus drivers’ contract that gave the most experienced drivers first pick at the jobs.

Besides the job security, bus drivers also wanted to stay on the same routes because they like being able to see the same kids year after year.

“I see the kids and they say, ‘Hey, bus driver, do you remember me?’ and I say, ‘Yes,’ and I do. I watch them grow up. I’ve seen children who’ve been on my bus, and now I see them with children of their own,” said Dawn L. Wensmann, 46, to the New York Times. He has been driving a bus for Atlantic for 14 years.

Eventually, the bus drivers needed to go back to work because their health insurance expired on February 2, and they were making far less money than normal. Union leaders say they are not going to give up, and will work even harder to get what they want from the next mayor.

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