Bloomberg and Walcott warn of ‘chaos’ from a school-bus strike they say is illegal

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Michael Bloomberg, Dennis Walcott, (Azi Paybarah )
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A citywide strike of school bus drivers would cause "a lot of chaos," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday afternoon when he announced contingency plans for the roughly 152,000 public school students who could be affected starting Monday.

The mayor said the city will make Metrocards available for some students, and reimburse parents for the cost of transporting some children if a strike by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, the largest union of school-bus drivers and bus escorts in New York, takes place. Also part of the contingency plan will be the cancellation of all field trips that require yellow school buses.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who appeared with Bloomberg at City Hall to announce the plans, did not say how much the strike could cost the city in additional expenses, but said, "Any type of strike will result in the bus companies not getting their money, therefore, the union workers not getting any type of salary."

Walcott also said a strike would be "shameful."

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In June, the city will renew the contacts it has with private bus companies that transport students in pre-kindergarten and pre-school programs. Local 1181 said it wanted guarantees inserted into those contacts that its workers would be assured of their jobs. When the city released its request for proposals for the new contracts starting in June, the union told them that all yellow school bus drivers may strike. The union did not indicate exactly when that might happen, according to Walcott and Bloomberg.

The mayor said the city's highest court ruled already determined "unambiguously" that such a requirement was illegal and "the city has asked the National Labor Relations Board for an unfair labor practice ruling agains the union."

It "is illegal, we believe, for a union to strike a third party. We're the third party," said the city's corporation counsel, Michael Cardozo. "We don't have a contract with this union and under the law, it's illegal for a union to strike it's employer to coerce a neutral person—in here, us—to do something."