By: Kirsten John Foy
Can you imagine needing a service with life and death, or serious quality of life implications — surgery, air travel, or life guarding, for example — and opting for a rookie over a veteran to provide that service?
Who among us would say, “Experience is overrated, I’ll go with the new pilot for 30% cheaper”?
How many times have you heard, “I’ll go with the discount surgeon”?
This is exactly the kind of logic Mayor Bloomberg has applied to school bus transportation. He wants to gut the professional and highly experienced workforce, both unionized and non-unionized, which transports and cares for our children, and replace it with a pool of transient, under paid, inexperienced labor.
If we demand experience and proven competency for ourselves, why would we accept anything less for our children? The rookie workforce Bloomberg seeks to activate would be responsible for safely and efficiently transporting dozens of rambunctious, hot blooded, New York City kids to and from school without incident. It would be laughable if it were not so dangerous and real.
Destroying A Profession
The Mayor seeks to eliminate a 50 year old feature of the city’s school bus contract commonly known as the Employee Protection Provision. The EPP was intended to create the school bus driver and matron professions by establishing a master seniority list to which all bus contractors are bound. No matter which company is awarded a bus contract, the EPP mandates that the most experienced and most senior drivers, matrons and mechanics receive the first right of refusal. What makes the EPP so special is that it protects all workers, whether unionized or not.
Putting Children with Special Needs in Harm’s Way
This dramatic shift in 50 years worth of practice is particularly dangerous because it puts the city’s most vulnerable children at serious risk. If Bloomberg has his way, anyone with a driver’s license and in need of a job will be put in the driver’s seat of a bus full of special needs children.
Drivers and matrons of children with special needs are more than just safe transporters. In many instances they represent trusted friends and security blankets to special needs children. To take away these professionals is to wipe away those unique relationships. Special needs children require continuity, familiarity, stability and expertise from their bus drivers and matrons. Instead, Bloomberg seeks to play roulette with their mobile care.
A Reckless and Hostile Policy
Last week, the Mayor said in a press conference that our city’s children will just have to learn to live without all the care and protections, both physical and emotional, that bus drivers and matrons provide. So too, if the Mayor has his way, will workers, in a time of deep economic insecurity, have to learn to live without basic job protections.
Is it any wonder why we are striking?
To support the students, parents, and professionals who care for our children call your council member, assembly member, state senator, and the mayor’s office at 311. Ask Mayor Bloomberg to come to the table and work with everyone involved to end the crisis. You can also like us on Facebook at ATU Local 1181, sign our online petition at http://nysaflcio.org/safety1st/, and then bring some coffee and a smile to a picket line!
Kirsten John Foy is a spokesperson for Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Local 1181.