Published 24 Jan, 2014
This article was originally published in the Chief-Leader. Read the online version of this article on the Chief-Leader’s website here.
By SARAH DORSEY | Posted: Monday, January 13, 2014 5:15 pm
Nearly 100 school bus drivers and mechanics with Quality/Brothers bus services who dumped their previous union in March ratified their first contract since joining Transport Workers Union Local 100, approving a seven-month pact by a margin of 65 to 10.
Wage, pension and health benefits will remain steady, and members will retain their paid week off during the winter holidays, though they no longer receive the same deal during spring break.
Waiting on De Blasio
Nadine Jerome, the unit’s Shop Steward, said last week that the short span of the new pact is due to uncertainty over whether Mayor De Blasio will return to her members the protections Mayor Bloomberg stripped them of a year ago. She noted that though they won’t be getting raises, they’re avoiding the huge pay cuts and layoffs other school bus drivers and matrons have faced in recent months.
Mr. Bloomberg in January 2013 began soliciting bids for school-bus contracts without the Employee Protection Provision (EPP), which for more than 30 years assured workers they’d retain their wages, benefits and seniority rights if another company took over their routes.
The move sparked a month-long strike by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, which represented most of the workers, though not Quality/Brothers employees. They continued working during the strike, running their bus lines in Brooklyn and Queens.
Ms. Jerome said that representatives from their previous union, Local 890 of the League of International Federated Employees, operated out of a private house in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn but were rarely seen.
“They never did anything for us,” she said in a phone interview. “If we had any problem with the management, you called them, they were never there, or…they already went upstairs with the boss.”
Weren’t Being Protected
Ms. Jerome said that she and her colleagues decided to decertify in part because they weren’t given protections when conflicts arose.
“If you had a driver who had a problem with the management, they [took] action before they [gave] you a warning,” she said. “They suspend you and don’t pay you. They wouldn’t talk to the shop steward. They automatically give you a suspension for two, three days.”
Though she’s worked for the company for six years, she said those who’ve worked there longer have seen unions come and go, but often weren’t well-informed about who was representing them.
Carlos Gutierrez of Local 890 didn’t return a request for comment.
Since last year’s strike, thousands of veteran drivers have lost their jobs and bus companies have filed for bankruptcy. Unless the EPP is reinstated, the new contractors can hire replacements at sharply-reduced pay. Mayor de Blasio was among the handful of Democratic candidates last year who pledged in mid-February to revisit the EPP issue if elected, after which Local 1181 ended the strike.