As the new academic year approaches in New York City, schools are on high alert due to the looming threat of a school bus worker strike.
On Monday, August 28th, NYC Public Schools voiced concerns about a possible strike this fall. The union representing both drivers and bus attendants has indicated their willingness to halt work, potentially stranding tens of thousands of students who rely on the iconic yellow buses for their daily commute.
The heart of this potential disruption lies in the negotiations between the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents approximately half of NYC’s school bus drivers and attendants, and the bus companies that hold contracts with the city.
NYC Public Schools estimates that a strike might affect approximately 80,000 students who travel on 4,400 routes across the five boroughs.
This number represents more than half of the roughly 150,000 students who use these yellow bus routes throughout the school year. About 25,000 of these potentially affected students have disabilities.
Concerns have been growing over the potential strike, especially since the union’s collective bargaining agreement with several bus companies ended in June after weeks of unease.
However, the city has outlined contingency plans. If the strike isn’t resolved by the start of the school year, affected families will receive prepaid MetroCards for public transportation.
Additionally, specific students, particularly those with disabilities or those in temporary housing, will have access to free ride-share services.
Still, these ride-share services pose challenges for parents as they would need to accompany their children to and from school.
Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement, “Working families across New York City should not, and do not have to worry about getting their children to school every day. This administration is here to help ensure our children continue their educations uninterrupted.”
Tomas Fret, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, highlighted the ongoing issue, stating earlier this month, “There has been a school bus workers shortage for several years. Drivers, attendants, and shop employees simply cannot make ends meet.”
This concern reflects the post-pandemic scenario, which witnessed many bus workers being furloughed, leading to recruitment challenges.
In 2013, a month-long strike centered on job security took place when then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg pursued cost-saving bus contracts. Union leaders demanded job assurances for current employees.
However, Bloomberg maintained that such guarantees were legally untenable. The strike concluded after a month, with the union unable to secure these protections, leading to significant dissatisfaction among bus workers.