Earlier this afternoon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a press conference announcing the city expects school bus driver strike later this week, possibly as soon as Wednesday. Although much of the details of the strike are still unknown–the union is holding their own press conference later this evening–Mr. Bloomberg repeatedly admonished the group, Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, while pointing to the city’s preparations to withstand the disruption.
“Should they decide to strike, it would necessarily jeopardize the education and safety of more than 150,000 students who take school buses every single day,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “In a year where students have already missed a week or more of school because of Hurricane Sandy, we certainly don’t need to make it more difficult to get to school. We have told the unions in unequivocal terms, ‘Do not walk out on our students.’”
The root of the conflict is the Bloomberg administration’s unwillingness to demand the city’s next bus contract come with employment protections for current workers. Using a Yiddishism he’s apparently fond of today, Mr. Bloomberg said he’s simply following a court order, something the union argues does not exist.
“A strike would not only be unfair to children and families, it would be totally misguided because the city cannot legally offer what the union is demanding,” he said. “Have you ever heard of a strike where one side is demanding something that the courts have ruled illegal? It is just meshugana, as we say in Gaelic.”
Mr. Bloomberg further argued New York City is obligated to let bus contractors place bids and see if the transportation costs can be lowered, especially given city’s relatively high per-pupil cost .
“Here are the facts,” he said. “New York City pays $1.1 billion per year for school busing, or an average $6,900 per student. Back in…1979, for slightly fewer students, we paid $100 million dollars. So more ten times the money since ’79, for only about 25 percent more students. And the $6,900 per student is far more than any other school system in our country. For example, Los Angeles just pays $3,100 per student. The moneys that we spend on transportation are moneys we don’t have to put into our school system. Or you can look at it another way and say they are more taxes than the people have to pay.”