Benjamin Carroll

School Bus Drivers' Strike on Long Island Leaves Thousands of Students Without a Ride

The strike affects thousands of students in four Nassau County school districts along with about 400 in Queens

A bus drivers' strike that was called off last week is back on, leaving thousands of students without a ride to and from school.

Debra Hagan, president of TWU Local 252 that represents drivers, monitors and mechanics, says hundreds of workers are officially on strike, though some workers could choose to cross the picket line and drive.

The union says it hopes that isn't the case.

Stuck in the middle of the feud are thousands of Nassau County students in four school districts: Freeport, Baldwin, Rockville Centre and Hicksville. The strike affects 46 routes and about 400 people in Queens as well. New York City's Office of Pupil Transportation made contingency plans for the students in Queens.

Parent Michael Defena, caught off guard by the strike, said Monday his older son had to get up a little bit earlier to talk to school.

"They do have crossing guards so he was able to make it. But it's a convenience to have that bus waiting for him," he said.

Hagan said, "I'm so sympathetic to their plight. I know the need their children to have transportation so that they can go to work."

The union and officials at Baumann Bus Company have been in ongoing talks as the union demands higher wages, more sick days, a guaranteed five-day work week and better company contributions to 401K programs. The union says mechanics are paid below the current market.

The Baumann Bus Company said in a statement it has "made many concessions" during negotiations and thought the parties had made "great progress" last week.

The drivers say the concessions didn't go far enough.

"We don't want to be on strike," said John Samuelsen, national president of the Transport Workers Union. "We want to be taking these kids back and forth to school. But it's time for Ronny B. to start sharing the profits he's earning so we can earn a living and take care of our families."

The next face-to-face meeting will be Tuesday, to be mediated by federal officials.

All of the school districts affected have messages on their websites to alert parents they need to find alternative transportation. There is no school on Tuesday because of Election Day.

The union said it prepares to be on strike as long as it takes.

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