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Possible School Bus Strike Looms

Friday, November 18, 2011

The school bus makes rounds in Prospect Heights. (Julia Furlan/WNYC)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned of an "immediate strike" by the city's school bus drivers that could  impact 152,000 students.

The city is filing a charge with the National Relations Labor Board in an attempt to head off the threatened strike.

"If and when a strike should happen we're going to do everything possible to help parents who rely on school buses to get their children to school safely," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg said the MTA is ready to issue students round-trip MetroCards for each day of the potential strike and parents can request them to accompany young or special needs students to and from school.

"Although Mayor Bloomberg's failure to put the safety of New York City children first makes a strike likely, there are no immediate plans for one," Local 1181 president Michael Cordiello said in a statement released Friday.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the Department of Education has prepared "for the worst," and alerted parents in an email Friday that they should prepare for a "strong possibility of an immediate system-wide strike."

"The union's threat to strike and leave 152,000 students and their families in the lurch is nothing short of shameful," Walcott said.

The strike threat by drivers with Amalgamated Transit  Local 1181 came as a response to the Department of Education's bid for new yellow bus contracts.

The city informed the drivers' union on Wednesday that it would be seeking bids for a new school bus contract for special education pre-kindergarten and pre-school students. Union representatives told the city they would institute a systemwide strike unless the city committed to job protections for current drivers, Walcott said.

Parent Christine Zall, whose son attends 6th grade at I.S. 7 on Staten Island said she's already trying make other arrangements:

"I've already spoken to another parent who my son takes the bus with and we've already said we would switch off," she said, "but it would impact both that families' work schedule and my families' work schedule."

The union wants the bid to include a measure that guarantees workers their seniority rights if their current employers do not win the new bid.

The DOE called the potential strike illegal. The union has not responded for comment.

With reporting from Kathleen Horan and the Associated Press

Read more education stories at SchoolBook.org.

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