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City bus drivers who feel the mayor left them out in the cold took to the picket line in Ridgewood Friday.
Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 braved the winter chill and were joined by City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) at Atlantic Express Co., at 46-81 Metropolitan Ave., to decry Mayor Michael Bloomberg for forcing the bus drivers’ union to strike for the first time since 1979.
“Bloomberg is acting like a bully,” said Arlene Lancetta, a Maspeth resident who has been driving a school bus for 31 years. “This is a betrayal to anyone who puts their heart and soul into their job. The mayor is more concerned with how big our sodas are than doing what is fair for New York workers.”
Union drivers with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 had threatened to strike for several weeks in the wake of an ongoing conflict between the ATU and employers that work for the DOE, with drivers demanding job security in any new bus contracts awarded by Bloomberg’s office.
The union’s strike officially took effect Jan. 16.
Crowley said if Bloomberg wants experienced, skilled drivers, he has to be willing to pay for them. She said the city has refused to protect experienced drivers with proven safety records.
“The city’s first priority must be keeping our schoolchildren safe, and that begins and ends with experienced bus drivers and matrons who bring our students to and from school,” she said. “In this contract dispute, the city is more concerned with saving money than protecting our children, and I stand in solidarity with ATU members.”
Bus driver Lancetta said experience counts when it comes to driving children to school every morning.
“For those of us who drive special needs kids, we know how difficult this job can be and how much experience counts,” she said. “Also, some of the special needs kids, they get used to their drivers and when they see someone different, they can’t handle it.”
One union member, whose house was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, said he was blindsided by Bloomberg’s decision not to return to the negotiating table in order to avoid a strike.
“I don’t know why the mayor wants to get rid of the contract. It protects our jobs just as he protected his when he voted himself a third term,” said Albert Serrano, who has 18 years of experience behind him. “He’s the one holding the children from going to school, not us. This is about job security, not money. I have no home. I need to know I have a job.”
Meanwhile, Crowley said Bloomberg must return to the negotiating table and do right by the city’s schoolchildren.
“Our kids deserve a safe ride to school with an experienced driver every morning,” she said.
The mayor said in a statement last week that the city cannot legally include job protections in its bus contracts.
“Let me be clear: The union’s decision to strike has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with job protections that the city legally cannot include in its bus contracts,” Bloomberg said. “We hope that the union will reconsider its irresponsible and misguided decision to jeopardize our students’ education.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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