School bus drivers and patrons took to the picket lines last Thursday.
But this time, they weren’t protesting the city or the bus companies; the target of their ire was their union.
Outside Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1811’s office at 101-49 Woodhaven Blvd. in Ozone Park, more than 100 drivers and patrons marched demanding the resignation of the union’s president, Michael Cordiello, and other top officials whom they blame for job losses and pay cuts after last winter’s strike.
“We’re honest people,” said driver Raymond LaRouche. “Cordiello is not. Cordiello must go.”
The seeds of Thursday’s protest were planted nearly a year ago when Local 1811 called a strike over the Bloomberg administration’s decision to bid out certain school bus routes without the inclusion of the Employee Protection Provision, a clause that has been in place for decades that protects the jobs of employees. However, a New York Court of Appeals ruled that the clause is illegal in 2011 and Bloomberg argued his hands were tied because of it.
That led to a five-week-long strike last winter that kept many buses off the road — most serving children with special needs. At the end of the strike, some bus companies shut down, leaving workers unemployed.
Just this week, parents and bus drivers protested the shutdown of one of the largest school bus companies, Atlantic Express, which serves 40,000 school children throughout the city.
Reyna Martinez, a bus driver for 26 years, said she knew friends who lost their jobs, because of other bus company shutdowns. But she said one company later reopened and the jobs were later filled by new workers, whom she believed were making less money.
“How can you have people with 35 years on the job get fired, while they hire somebody off the streets,” she said. “It’s not fair, it’s not right.”
She said that Cordiello doesn’t understand her job.
“Our president was never a bus driver,” Martinez, who drives buses for special needs children, said. “He doesn’t know what it’s like. The first time I drove a bus, I went home and cried.”
But many workers remain cynical that the union will change its leadership or do anything to help their situation. They are now relying on Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio, who last year said he would revisit the EPP if he was elected, to step in on their behalf.
“Our best hope right now is de Blasio,” Martinez said. “We’re hoping that he does do like he said and reassesses the EPP and tries to reinstate it.”
A union spokeswoman did not return a request for comment at press time, but a note on the union’s website told members that no rally was scheduled to take place on Thursday and to disregard any text message about it.