New York City is filing a charge with the National Labor Relations Board in an attempt to head off a threatened school bus drivers' strike that the schools chancellor says could affect more than 150,000 students.
Mayor Bloomberg said Friday that the bus drivers' union has told the city it will go on strike if the city doesn't commit to job protections for current bus drivers as it looks to secure a new yellow-bus contract.
"The union representing school bus drivers is seeking something that we are not legally allowed to offer: job guarantees for certain current drivers," Bloomberg said. "So the union is threatening an illegal strike that would harm the education of more than 152,000 students if it doesn’t get its way. And that’s just outrageous."
Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union said "there are no immediate plans" for a strike, but added the city was "casting away" "experienced, well-trained employees in favor of companies who are simply seeking to provide bare-bones service at the lowest possible cost."
Parents reacted with alarm to the news of a possible strike.
"It would be an impossibility for us," said Deborah Kapolovitz, whose daughter goes to school 75 blocks from the family's home.
The city said children who arrive late to school because of yellow bus service disruptions would get a 2-hour grace period for which they will be excused. And if they were to be absent because of yellow bus service, the absence would be marked with a code, ensuring it would not affect their attendance record.
The city is taking steps to get a federal court injunction preventing a strike.
The mayor said if a strike were to occur, children who take yellow buses from designated bus stops would receive MetroCards. Parents who get buses directly to their home may request MetroCards for a parent or guardian to escort the child to school.
The city would also offer reimbursement for transportation costs, at 51 cents per mile, for parents who would have to drive their kids to school.
"We recognize a strike could be a major disturbance in the lives of students and their families, and we continue to hope that the bus driver and escort union will not take such unwarranted action," Bloomberg said.
Parents can find out information about disruptions to bus service at the Department of Education's website.