Tag Archives: bus strike

Citywide school bus strike over

| aaltman@queenscourier.com


The month-long citywide school bus strike has come to a screeching halt.

Drivers and matrons are expected to be back at their posts on Wednesday.

According to a statement issued by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, city officials and members of Local 1181 met on Thursday to bring an end to the strike which left more than 150,000 children stranded.

“We appreciate the hard work our bus drivers and matrons do and we welcome them back to the job. In the city’s entire history, the special interests have never had less power than they do today, and the end of this strike reflects the fact that when we say we put children first, we mean it,” said Bloomberg.

Drivers expected to end school bus strike tonight

| dromano@homereporter.com


UPDATE (8 p.m.): Mayor Bloomberg, city officials and union members have announced that the school bus strike is over.

According to several local politicians, including State Senator Marty Golden and City Councilmember Vincent Gentile, who posted the news on Facebook, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 is expected to officially end the school bus strike at 7 p.m. Friday.

If drivers do decide to go back to work, school buses will be available to students as early as 7 a.m. Tuesday morning.

The welcome news comes just a day after Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s State of the City address at the Barclays Center, where he called the strike a “lost cause.”

 -With additional reporting by Toni Cimino 

School bus strike deemed legal by federal labor board

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled the school bus strike legal, contrary to previous statements by city officials.

“I’m glad that they deemed it legal,” said Maria Gentile, a bus driver from Howard Beach. “This puts more pressure on the city to step up to the plate and get the kids back to school.”

Gentile, who called the ruling “one step closer to victory,” said her and the other drivers just want to get back to work.

According to a statement issued by Local 1181 President Michael Cordiello, drivers could be back on the roads by Monday, if Bloomberg agrees to meet them at the bargaining table.

“All we ask is that he suspend the bids, and is willing to discuss ways to reduce costs within the school bus transportation industry, which the Union has shown has nothing to do with keeping the most experienced school bus crews on the road,” said Cordiello.



One family’s struggle in wake of bus drivers’ strike

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Crystal Blount refuses to let her son be one of those left behind.

One week after school bus drivers abandoned their routes, as panicked parents scrambled for solutions, the Far Rockaway mom bundled up her disabled son Nehemiah, trekking more than an hour from her south Queens home to her son’s school, United Cerebral Palsy of Nassau County, in Roosevelt, Long Island.

It’s a small sacrifice for the smiley little boy she calls “pumpkin patch,” known by friends and classmates as Nemo.

In many neighborhoods, parents leaned on livery cabs and public transit when drivers announced they would be halting service in the five boroughs. In Far Rockaway, where the main transit nerve has yet to be restored since Sandy, students were left completely stranded.

In the battle between city government and contracted employees, those suffering the most are seemingly the children, particularly the most vulnerable ones. Unable to take public transit, disabled students rely heavily on school buses and receive more than an education from their schools, attending speech, occupational and feeding therapies along with daily classes. Missing one can wreck a routine and delay progress.

“It’s a setback,” Crystal said. “When a child such as Nemo misses school, it’s a routine broken. What about the next disabled child? A lot of disabled kids can’t get on a car or bus. They didn’t even think of disabled children. And that’s horrible.”

At its peak, attendance among disabled children dropped by nearly 34 percent during the strike, according to the Department of Education (DOE).

Born premature, Nemo spent his first 18 months of life in a hospital. While at age six, Nemo is non-ambulatory, non-verbal and legally blind, working with physical therapists and speech experts have afforded him the ability to react to sounds, light and noise.

“It’s very difficult,” Crystal said. “There’s always a lot to do in the morning.”

Before school, Crystal uses a suction machine to clear out Nemo’s nose, occasionally assisted by a nurse. Thanks to a phone call from Congressmember Gregory Meeks’ office, Nemo is finally getting his first real wheelchair, after fighting with the insurance company for over a year.

“You’ve got to fight tooth and nail to get anything,” she said. “What about the next person who doesn’t have a voice?”

Nemo suffers occasional seizures, often in the first 10 minutes of sleep. Crystal doesn’t like to call them seizures in front of Nemo, so she calls them “S’s”.

Constant stimulation, usually provided by a bus matron on the way to school, is an integral part of Nemo’s growth. For Christmas, Santa brought him a blue and green Furby that sings and chortles to Nemo while he lies on the couch as Crystal completes morning tasks. He titters as the toy wiggles and lets out a triumphant “la la la!” In the car on the way to school, Crystal sings to her son.

“A, B, C, D, E, F, G,” she sings, keeping her eyes on the road.

“A, B, C, D, E, F, G,” she sings again, this time holding the “G” for an extended note.

Nemo coos from the backseat.

“That always makes him laugh,” she said.

Crystal feels disabled children have been left without transportation options. The Access-A-Ride vans, commonly thought to cater to all disabled students, require parents to ride with children and they will only go to schools inside the five boroughs. On the highway, Crystal spots a yellow cab topped with a “School Bus” sign. There are no vehicles like that in the Rockaways, she says.

Both Crystal and Nemo’s father Gladstone work for the city’s Department of Correction. Crystal works during the day while Gladstone runs the midnight to 8:30 a.m. shift. Now responsible for picking Nemo up at school, Gladstone fits a small nap into the middle of his day before heading out to his son’s school.

“And the end of the day, we’ve got to take care of him,” she said. “And he’s the love of my life.”



BREAKING NEWS: School bus strike officially announced, will begin Wednesday

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

The school-bus strike could begin as early as Wednesday.

UPDATE: Local 1181 representatives announced a strike will begin among school bus drivers on Wednesday, January 16.

A walkout could still be averted if a deal is reached before that time.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and School’s Chancellor Dennis Walcott issued a statement regarding the impending school bus strike at a press conference on Monday.

“Should they decide to strike it would necessarily jeopardize the education and safety of more than 150,000 students who take school buses every single day,” said Bloomberg.

According to Bloomberg, the city cannot legally offer what Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union is hoping to obtain – job protection.

Should the strike occur, students in grades kindergarten through six will be issued metro cards with students in kindergarten through second grade eligible for an extra metro card 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.

Local 1181 will allegedly issue a statement regarding the strike sometime this afternoon.