School bus drivers seek bill in conflict with other unions

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Bus drivers and matrons of Local 1181 rallied to get Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill that they believe would help them. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Hundreds of school bus drivers and monitors rallied in front of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan office Monday morning, calling on him to sign the “Employee Protection Provision” (EPP) bill that they say would ensure drivers seniority, fair wages and benefits, regardless of company turnover.

The workers and union leaders of Amalgamated Transit Union 1181 rallied around State Senator Robert Jackson, a prime sponsor of the bill, A7749/S6208, which reinstates rights removed from workers in 2011 on seniority and compensation levels whenever a new bus company takes over a route.

Even though the bill cleared both houses of the State Legislature, it is not without its detractors. Two major unions — Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the Joint Council #16 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters — distributed letters at the rally calling on the governor to reject the bill. The two unions are against the bill.

TWU Local 100 maintained that the bill protects “only one segment of the workforce,” and “one particular bus company.” Sources say the bill could jeopardize the jobs of the union’s younger members.

In a letter distributed by the union from June 4, TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano said, “the bill, if passed, will create a two-tier system for school bus workers in New York City — the equivalent of a modern day caste system.” He said the workforce has changed since the elimination of EPP and that it endangers the jobs of bus drivers who have since gotten jobs “where drivers that currently provide good services and represent the diversity of our City, would be bumped in favor of former drivers who will be compensated at a higher rate.”

“Right now, there is a far greater diversity in the post-EPP workforce. School bus worker demographics are far more reflective of the communities they serve,” Utano said.

Officials from TWU Local 100 and Amalgamated Union 1181 could not comment on the record at this time.

George Miranda president of the Teamsters Local Council 16 also urged a “no” vote on the bill in a letter dated June 17, saying “restore the original Employee Protection Provisions and ensure safe reliable service for school children while protecting school bus drivers.”

Miranda maintained that while the bill is well-intentioned, “it will unfortunately harm more school bus workers than it will help.” He maintains that the new system would “displace more school bus workers and prove unworkable for responsible union companies.”

Michael Cordiello, president of the Amalgamated Union Local 1181, said he believes the bill would be of great benefit to his members.

He said in 2013, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg bid out 40 percent of the industry school bus service, thereby cutting jobs of senior drivers and “we want it back.”

“This assures that experienced school bus drivers and attendants stay on the job and it gives them priority,” Cordiello said. “Secondly, it protects their wages, and third, it protects their medical and pensions. Most of all, it protects the children of New York by making sure that the most experienced drivers stay on those vehicles.”

Michael Cordiello, president of Local 1181, called for passage of the EPP bill. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

In addition to the union members, some parents showed their support for the bill.

Corine Van-Donk, a parent from Manhattan who’s son took a school bus for many years, but who is now 19, said parents support EPP. She said many groups support EPP, including hers, Parents to Improve School Transportation.

“These people take a bus full of children for six hours a day and this is not a minimum wage job,” Van-Donk said. “It requires care, finesse and trust and barring serious training, it is experience and training that counts so EPP makes sense.”

State Senator Robert Jackson, the sponsor of the EPP bill, thanked the bus operators for supporting the bill “the bus drivers, school matrons, mechanics because you are the ones who move our country.”

“I’ve seen it because I was there when you were on strike and it was 16 degrees — you are the working New Yorkers that makes New York move,” Jackson said. “One thing I know, as someone who grew up New York City my entire life, people especially dealing with special needs, matrons, look at the people here, who are they — all we want is a living wage.”

Members of Local 1181 file off buses to rally for EPP.  (Photo by Todd Maisel)

According to published reports, the company also had the fifth-highest cost per route — $177,997.