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Sunday, November 27, 2011

A message from Parents to Improve School Transportation: Relax about bus strike but not about safety

PIST was an invited guest at the monthly membership meeting of school bus drivers’, escorts’, and mechanics’ Local 1181 ATU on November 22. This was clearly NOT a meeting to hold a strike vote.   The president went over the union’s position on Employee Protection Provisions but no date was set for a strike vote, let alone a strike.

PIST described how parents were made to worry all weekend by media reports--traceable to Mayor Bloomberg—that a school bus strike could or would happen on the 21st.  On Monday, some students came home with forms requested updated emergency contacts specifically in case of a sudden strike.  President Michael Cordiello replied that never in the history of the local would they strike in the middle of the day and leave children stranded. 

Leaders of PIST and of the Community Education Council 31 in Staten Island are some of the parents who agree that job security for trained, experienced bus workers leads to a standard of quality and stability for our children.  Other special education parent groups are more focused on fighting service cuts disguised as ‘mandate relief’—for which PIST thanks and admires them—or are understandably upset by the prospect of disabled children missing school in the event of any strike. 

Even if one believes the unions are motivated only by self-preservation, aren’t their working conditions still our children’s travel and safety conditions? 

In that auditorium on Tuesday night, the nods and looks of concern on a rainbow of faces created a sense that these workers have much more empathy for school bus families than we ever get from the agencies in charge of pupil transportation.

Meanwhile, a school bus combusted in midtown Tuesday, shortly after breaking down and being evacuated. Thankfully, no one was hurt.  We have to wonder why a bus in such bad shape was on the road in the first place.  If Bloomberg can find $1.3 million to throw at the MTA to counter an undeclared yellow bus strike (NY Times 11/19/11), where is the investment into bus repairs/maintenance?  Where is the leadership to make sure bus evacuation drills occur twice a year as promised by Chancellor’s Regulation A-801? 

Back at the 1181 meeting:  a driver raised that her company had shown a training film that instructed drivers to check their bus battery, etcetera—tasks that should be assigned to a trained bus mechanic instead.  Would an inexperienced, non-union driver feel empowered to question this big company?

PIST thinks parents should take this moment when school busing is in the news to expose the root problems; to seek relief for families coping with bad routes (such as distribution of those alleged already-paid-for Metrocards to people with OPT complaints); to seek the truth about the bus fire and inadequate inspections; to call Bloomberg out for the things that have gone on in OPT; and to not let ourselves be used against a group of people who provide a vital support service to our children’s civil right to an education.  

What do you think?  Tell us at or on Facebook at PIST NYC or call 347-504-3310.

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