More than 8,000 New York City school bus drivers went on strike Wednesday morning, leaving 152,000 children, many who are disabled, struggling to get to school. Bus drivers and and bus matrons, who help students on and off the bus, began picketing Wednesday morning.
Children shared hailed taxis, boarded subways, and shared car rides. Parents are wondering how long the strike will last, as city officials warn the strike could last for awhile.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott talked with a local news channel Wednesday morning according to The New York Times. Bloomberg said, “These are not kids that it is easy for them to move to mass transit.” Walcott added, “The first days will be extremely chaotic. It hasn’t happened in New York City in over 33 years.”
More than 1.1 million New York students walk or take public transportation. But, 152,000 students use bus services with many of them being special-needs students. Throughout the city, parents hustled to get their children to school. One parent, Peter Curry, who’s daughter is in a wheelchair and usually picked up by a bus with a ramp, drove her to school today. He told ABC News:
“It means transferring her to the car, breaking down the wheelchair, getting here, setting up the wheelchair, transferring her from the car, when normally she would just wheel right into the school bus. She’s on oxygen. There’s a lot of equipment that has to be moved and transferred also.”
The strike is organized by Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union. The strike began when New York City, trying to save money and lower costs, put its contracts with private bus companies up for bid. The union says that bus drivers could lose their jobs when contracts their contracts expire in June.
On Monday, the union said they would strike during the complicated dispute. Bus drivers and matrons are not directly hired by New York City but work for private companies that have city contracts. Union President Michael Cordiello told ABC News that the average workers makes $35,000 a year; drivers start out at $14 an hour but can potentially make as much As $29 an hour.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the city must seek competitive bids to save money.