On Tuesday, private school bus companies contracted to the New York City Department of Education (DOE) sought to break the two-week strike of 8,800 drivers, matrons (children’s attendants), and mechanics by using scabs to cross the picket line.
The Staten Island Bus Company sent out 68 school buses from its yard on Meredith Avenue, allegedly driving 59 of the 113 routes that the DOE has contracted to it.
The buses were driven by members of another non-striking union, United Service Workers Local 355, accompanied by other drivers who had been hastily trained to serve as scab matrons. The matrons at the company are members of Amalgamated Transit Union 1181, which represents the 8,800 strikers.
The scabbing was carried out in direct collaboration with the administration of New York’s billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, which issued an emergency order last week allowing matrons to be put on buses with only four hours of special training, instead of the usual 20. Striking workers gathered outside the yard to express their outrage and were forced to stand behind barricades with a heavy police presence. One driver got out of his bus and refused to cross the picket line, to the resounding cheers of the strikers.
Strikers said that drivers who work at the Little Richie bus company are being forced to do runs from Stillwell Avenue yards in Brooklyn and Hunts Point in the Bronx. These drivers are being threatened with the loss of their jobs unless they cross the picket lines.
Many other drivers who are not members of Local 1181 have refused to cross picket lines, called in sick or sought early retirement. There is broad support for the strike throughout the city, including among teachers and transit workers in the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).
Bloomberg provoked the strike when he instructed the DOE to issues bids for service for next year’s school bus contract that eliminated a critical clause known as the Employee Protection Provision (EPP). The EPP guarantees the jobs of bus drivers regardless of which companies win the bids, requiring them to hire the existing workers based on seniority rights in terms of both wages and picking their routes. Without the EPP, bus companies will be able to slash wages to minimal levels.