Tag Archives: Amalgamated Transit Union

Council hopefuls get ready to fill Comrie seat


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Sondra Peeden/Manuel Caughman/Facebook

The race to replace Councilmember Leroy Comrie for District 27 already has multiple contenders who are raring to address community issues.

Manuel Caughman, community liaison for Assemblymember William Scarborough; Bryan Block, Community Board 13 chair; Joan Flowers, local attorney; Sondra Peeden, a political consultant; and Daneek Miller, a community and labor activist, have all filed their names with the Board of Elections.

“I believe that as large a city as New York is, we can still get to a place where we have a sense of community, where people are willing to reach out and help each other and extend themselves on behalf of their neighbor,” Peeden said.

Peeden and her fellow candidates are focused on a variety of issues, namely education, foreclosures and crime.

“I want to work with young people [to] make sure they’re safe, and not perpetuating the things they can do when they’re misled or don’t have guidance in their life,” Miller said.

Caughman believes controlling gun violence is a goal to pursue and said he wants to work with police to development technologies needed to combat crime.

When it comes to education, Peeden sees the need to take schools out of mayoral control and bring it back to the community. Similarly, Caughman thinks more parental input is necessary.

Miller, if elected, hopes to look deep into school policies so they can continue to meet Department of Education (DOE) standards and avoid threats of closure.

Late last year, Comrie met with Miller about being his successor. After some thought, Miller said he took him up on his suggestion.

“[I feel] it’s a necessity to have a voice for the working people,” said Miller, who is currently the president of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1056. “If you have a record of bringing people together, folks gravitate towards that.”

The primary election is slated for June or September.

Block and Flowers did not return calls for comment as of press time.

 

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School bus strike may end this week


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

The school bus driver walkout that began Wednesday may be over as soon as early this week.

According to the New York Daily News, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is expected to rule on a formal complaint from the private bus companies that provide the yellow bus service.

Those bus companies are claiming that the strike is illegal and that they are being financially punished because of it.

If the NRLB rules on the side of the bus companies, then drivers could be back to work as early as Tuesday.

On January 16, drivers from Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union walked off the job, affecting 152,000 students, including 54,000 with disabilities.

In an effort to cut costs,  the city wants to put contracts out to bid for 1,100 routes for the first time in 33 years. The union is objecting to the lack of  job guarantees in the contract bid specifications and safety issues that could arise if current drivers are replaced with less experienced ones.

The city’s last school bus strike, in 1979, lasted 14 weeks.

 

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Bus strike leaves parents, students scrambling


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Alexa Altman

Dodging icy sleet, first-grader Tarunima Bhowmik and her father Gola grabbed a cab from their home in Sunnyside on their way to Tarunima’s school, P.S. 166  Golain Astoria. Fare cost about $10, a necessary evil with New York City school buses out of commission.

“It’s a very hard time for the kids,” Gola said of the school bus strike as he dropped off his daughter. “The bus drivers and the city authorities should come to an agreement as soon as possible.”

Riding the bus is first-grader Aviva Kaufman’s favorite part of the day. Every morning, the six-year-old hops on the big yellow rig in her Bay Terrace neighborhood and rides to P.S. 130 in Flushing with her classmates. Her mother Kari covets the spare time she gains in the morning when Aviva takes the bus, running errands and catching up on housework before heading to her job at a nearby preschool.

When Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union announced that school bus drivers would begin striking on Wednesday, January 16, parents panicked over wrecked routines and tricky transportation alternatives. Nearly 152,000 students, who rely on city-contracted buses to get to class on time, are now stranded.

“I’ll have to drive her and pick her up every day,” said Kari. “Instead of having time in the morning, I have to go straight to work. [The strike] really impacts the number of things I can do during the day, in order to do them safely.”

Local 1181’s motive for striking rests in job security after the city announced attempts to find new contractors for more than 1,000 bus routes. Drivers want the city to ensure job stability, a request city officials have deemed “illegal,” adding that any kind of discrepancies are between the employees and the bus companies.

“This is not about safety,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “It’s about job protection that the city cannot offer.”

According to Bloomberg, the city spends $1.1 billion annually on student transit, equaling $6,900 per child, which the mayor said is far greater than any other American city, including Los Angeles which he cited at $3,100 per student. Bloomberg claimed that over the last five years, altering bus routes and opening contracts to other bidders has saved the city $95 million in taxpayer dollars, allotting more money for teachers’ salaries and schoolhouse improvement projects.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott called the lockout “a strike against our students,” that will have “a devastating effect” on them.

Michael Cordiello, president of Local 1181, stood by his group’s decision to begin striking on Wednesday, stating that their justification lies in their increased responsibility to “handle and transport the most precious cargo in New York City.”

“I heard it was said today that if we strike, we are striking the children of the city of New York,” said Cordiello. “In fact, we would be striking for the city of New York’s children.

According to Cordiello, starting pay for bus drivers is $14 per hour, amounting to $38,000 annually, and pension plans for operators are private and don’t impact taxpayers. Cordiello also stated that contrary to what city officials have claimed, the drivers’ objective of job security does not break any laws.

To ease transit tension, students in grades kindergarten through six will be issued MetroCards with students in kindergarten through second grade eligible for an extra MetroCard for parents who wish to accompany their children to school. Parents driving their children to school can receive gas reimbursements at 55 cents per mile.

Gola said he hopes his daughter’s school will reimburse him for their morning cab ride, but hasn’t heard anything yet.

Kari fears the bus strike could jeopardize student’s safety, adding that drivers undergo diligent training as well as a thorough screening process before they are put behind the wheel. Substitute drivers may not be as equipped to care for students, she said.

“I don’t want my child riding on a bus with someone who hasn’t been trained and tested,” said Kari. “The safety of my child is not clear then.”

Though the strike affects 152,000 students, some school buses were still running Wednesday.


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NYC school bus drivers won’t strike Monday, but walkout still possible


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

After threatening to strike, New York City school bus drivers were back to work Monday, but they could still walk off the job within the next few days.

A strike would affect 152,000 students, including 54,000 with disabilities, and those in public, private and parochial schools.

“The union is asking for something we cannot legally deliver and are putting a central and necessary service at risk,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. “A strike would be irresponsible and would adversely impact our students and their families who rely on bus service to get to and from school.”

In an effort to cut costs,  the city wants to put contracts out to bid for 1,100 routes for the first time in 33 years.

New York City spends $1.1 billion, or $6,900 per student, on busing each year. That figure is more than any other school district in the country and almost double what the country’s second largest school district, Los Angeles, spends.

Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents 9,000 drivers, is objecting to the lack of  job guarantees in the contract bid specifications and safety issues that could arise if current drivers are replaced with less experienced ones.

“I’ve been working 35 years driving kids to school in the Bronx, and now you’re going to tell me, ‘You don’t have a job no more’?” 67-year-old union member Rick Meli told the Wall Street Journal. “How do you tell this many people they could lose their jobs?”

If a strike does happen, the city will robocall affected families.

Additionally, students and parents with children in pre-school to 2nd grade or with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and require transportation from their home directly to their school will receive free MetroCards. Parents who receive yellow bus service from their homes or are in grades K through 6 and do not live in areas where public transportation between home and school is available, can request reimbursement for transportation costs.

“As the city continues to take all possible precautions in advance of a potential strike, we are asking parents to make a plan in the event that busing is disrupted,” said Walcott.

 

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Southeast Queens plagued by illegal vans


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

BY PAUL BUFANO
editorial@queenscourier.com

Esther Robinson passed up several unlicensed vans while she waited at the corner of Parsons Boulevard and Archer Avenue in the blistering heat. Although she was anxious to get home, she would only ride in a licensed van.

“There’s no doubt that some people would be afraid to ride in an unlicensed van,” said Robinson. “It depends on the driver, but I’ve been in many vans that weren’t following all the rules.”

Unlicensed commuter vans have been operating illegally in southeast Queens for about two decades, say officials. While some travelers appreciate the service they provide, there are many who do not. Critics attack the vans on two fronts: they say they are recklessly driven, and that they poach city revenue.

“Most commuters don’t even know to check to see if the van has a DOT (Department of Transportation) sticker or if the driver has a proper license,” said David Clarke, a DOT licensed driver. “They only find out it’s unlicensed when the van is pulled over by the police for running a red light or speeding.”

Most vans charge the same fee of $2, but the unlicensed vans tend to be quicker because they are usually speeding, he said.

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1056 leads the opposition against the vans. ATU 1056 president and business agent I. Daneek Miller recently called for city and state agencies to address the problem.

“Our main goal is to deal with the dangerous and illegal manner that both licensed and unlicensed vans operate along MTA bus routes,” said Miller. “Forget about whether the vans are assisting some commuters, as they speed along bus routes they endanger citizens and result in us losing thousands of dollars a day. They are simply not helping the city and it’s just not fair.”

Councilmember Leroy Comrie wants to see unlicensed van drivers receive the tools to legitimize their business. The vans will be much easier to regulate once they are all legalized, he said.

“These vans have been institutionalized in the area over many years, and if they are going to create opportunities they should be helped,” said Comrie. “If we are able to eliminate the illegal vans there would be less competition and we would then have a better chance to enforce safe driving.”

Akeen Henry is an unlicensed van driver. He said he has no choice but to drive without a license because the current system makes getting one too difficult.

“I have a family to support and I need to make money, but these guys make it unfair to do it the right way,” he said. “They only say I’m breaking laws because they don’t want to share any of the money to be made.”

Residents have also raised safety concerns about the unlicensed vans, said Yvonne Reddick, district manager of Community Board 12.

“Our interest is the safety of the people boarding and riding these vans,” said Reddick. “Many times people are only interested in getting to where they have to go in the shortest amount of time possible, rather than whether it’s safe or not.”

Enforcement has to be stricter to keep the streets safe, said Reddick. The MTA, NYPD and the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) have to work together in order to solve this problem, she continued.

“The NYPD predominantly enforces traffic laws that include moving and parking violations,” said officer Mark Costa of the 103rd Precinct. “The NYPD can enforce illegal vans, but it isn’t prioritized over issues involving crime and violence. Organizations like the TLC go after the issue in full force and have the manpower to do so.”

The TLC has stepped up its efforts by working with the NYPD to deal with the illegally operating vans in Queens, said Allan Fromberg, spokesperson for the TLC.

“We have taken 300 unlicensed vans off the street this calendar year to date, so I would say we are dealing with the issue quite effectively,” said Fromberg. “We don’t have the manpower to properly address the issue alone, which is why we have been working with the NYPD. Riding these vans is a matter of convenience, but people can take some simple steps like checking for TLC plates to recognize if the van is properly licensed or not.”