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Queens Chronicle

Children get thrown under the bus

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Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2013 10:30 am

Workers of the world — give us a break.

On Wednesday the already hard-pressed families of Queens and the rest of New York City had yet another unnecessary burden placed upon them when school bus drivers and aides with Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union went on strike.

As usual, it’s union members first, the public last.

The city was stuck with handing out free MetroCards so the kids could get to school. Or promising parents they’d be reimbursed for gas or cab fare — whatever transportation expenses they’re incurring.

It’s not enough that many schools are in crisis, or that many parents are more worried than ever about safety following the Connecticut massacre, or that many families are watching every dime, or even that the weather was pretty crummy Wednesday as the strike began.

No, the leadership of this union, many of whose past officers have had ties to the mob, sees fit to make children and their families suffer just a bit more, all in the name of job security. The walkout hits about 152,000 children — 54,000 of them disabled.

The drivers and matrons are striking because the city, trying to cope with the structural deficits it faces as far as the eye can see, is rebidding yellow bus contracts in the hopes of saving some money. It’s about time. Right now the city school system pays far more, $6,900 per student, than any other district in the country for bus service. The next closest is Los Angeles, which pays $3,124 — less than half the cost here. The Bloomberg administration would be shirking its duty to the taxpayers if it didn’t seek a better deal.

But the union insists on job guarantees for all its members — meaning that even if one or more new companies are selected, they have to hire drivers from the firms that lost the contracts.

Kind of defeats the purpose of seeking new bids, doesn’t it?

That would be like this newspaper selecting a new printer and then demanding it hire everyone who works for the one we use now. Silly.

In fact it’s worse than that, because this issue has come up before, and the state’s highest court has ruled that the city, which also used to back such job protections, cannot legally do so. So really the union’s problem is with the state of the law. If it wants the law changed, it should bring a new legal challenge or, just imagine, go the old-fashioned route and lobby legislators to rewrite the law to its liking.

Instead it took an action directly targeting young families. Mayor Bloomberg will have no problem getting to work. Neither will Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. No, it’s just regular New Yorkers who will pay for the union’s unwillingness to face the legal facts on the one hand and compete for work in the open market on the other.

It’s sad when anyone loses a job, but it’s a fact of life. You do your best to get another one, that’s all. Let’s hope this nonsense ends soon.

Welcome to the discussion.