Parents Express Support for School Bus Drivers Before Possible Strike
by Ewin Moline Chungo
InformacionAlDesnudo – New York City
NEW YORK, NY – As employees at Jofaz and Y&M school bus companies prepare to strike, New York City school bus riders’ parents are speaking up to support the workers’ demands for dignity. The organization Parents to Improve School Transportation (PIST NYC) asserts that if the city administration had reinstated Employee Protection Provisions after the last strike and made school bus jobs sustainable as promised, students and workers would all be better off today.
Brooklyn mom Tiffany Caldwell told PIST NYC via facebook, “My daughter takes Y&M. I support higher wages and better working conditions for drivers and matrons, to ensure we keep trained and competent workers that meet the needs of our children.” Ms. Caldwell is petitioning Governor Cuomo to sign the School Bus Bill A8019C/S5984C once it reaches his desk, to make EPP for school bus employees a state law.
Parents say penny-pinching by these two bus companies has let their children down. PIST is copied on complaints from parents accusing Y&M Transit of ducking responsibility when called about overly long or crowded routes with impossible schedules. “If parents had a say in how NYC busing is run, routes would not be simply given to the lowest bidder, nor would we see thousands of homeless students stranded on the first day of school,” said Johnnie Stevens, a PIST leader, adding “This is why we fight for a School Bus Bill of Rights, including more community control over the process.”
Many of the parents involved also rallied support for school bus drivers and attendants during the 2013 school bus strike. At issue was the loss of the Employee Protection Provision, which parents say ensured experienced safety professionals were with their children on the trip to and from school. During and after the strike parents were incensed by what they saw as a lack of regard from the authorities for the education of children with disabilities.
While parents hope a strike will be averted, they are preparing to lend support if school bus employees do walk off the job, including meeting workers on the picket line to discuss common interests in improving the quality of busing.
A mother of a student who rides a wheelchair bus, Fatima, points out that “New York boasts a minimum $15 an hour for anyone working under a city contract. The attendants at Y&M and Jofaz are only making two-thirds of that, despite these companies getting all their income from the Department of Education” through its Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT).
Parents to Improve School Transportation founder Sara Catalinotto had this to say: “We feel sold out by NYC. There is no substitute for safe, on-time, professional busing by trained, experienced drivers—and attendants, who are actual service providers for students with disabilities under federal civil rights law. OPT’s alleged plan to offset individual carfare during a strike is no solution. Very few parents can even make those extra trips without neglecting their jobs or their other children.” The DOE website admits that even students who walk to school would be losing buses for cultural trips.
Catalinotto concluded, “Instead of subsidizing a false alternative to school busing, the City must live up to its stated support for job security and child safety. As the entity that pays the vendor, the least Mayor DeBlasio can do is press the owner to spend wisely on this workforce. The only obstacle to the buses rolling on Tuesday is the owner of Y&M and Jofaz trying to keep a big cut of taxpayer money while the workers (and riders) suffer.”