- Officials from New York City Public Schools are bracing for a potential school bus driver strike as negotiations continue between contracted bus companies and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, which represents half of the school busing staff who work in the nation’s largest school system.
- New York City school buses still ran for the first two days of classes on Thursday and Friday, but continuation of those services is not a given as union members say they’re still fighting for a fair contract, according to a Thursday Facebook post. The union has told local news outlets that negotiations are ongoing as members face difficulties making ends meet.
- If the strike does occur, NYC Public Schools has established a contingency plan in which all impacted families will receive emergency MetroCards to ride public buses and subways for free during the school day. The system is also prepared to reimburse families who will have to rely on taxis, rideshares or their own vehicles due to a potential strike.
The looming bus driver strike in New York comes amid similar labor disputes in various cities ahead of the new school year.
A two-day bus driver strike in Connecticut’s Meriden Public Schools ended last week after the union, Teamsters Local 671, negotiated a 6% pay raise with the district’s bus contractor, New Britain Transportation. On top of that, the City of Meriden will end its contract with New Britain Transportation several years early as a result of the “abhorrent treatment of workers and forcing them to strike,” the union said in a statement.
“These workers love their job and did not want to strike, but New Britain Transportation left us without a choice,” said Nick Frangiamore, a representative for Teamsters Local 671, in a statement. “Drivers are ecstatic to get back behind the wheel, see students, and bring home a dignified paycheck.”
Meanwhile, a four-day strike among bus drivers at Lakota Local Schools in Ohio came to a close last week after members of Teamsters Local 100 reached an agreement with the district’s contractor, Petermann Transportation. With the help of a federal mediator, Petermann Transportation said the new contract will require “technological safety and accountability measures” — like bus cameras used to discipline drivers, which union members initially pushed back on.
The new contract also includes a compensation and benefits package that will help recruit and retain qualified employees, the company said. “We believe this new deal is fair to both sides, and we look forward to supporting Lakota schools in the continuing education of their students,” Petermann said in a statement.
The string of bus driver strikes is occurring at the same time that some schools are in desperate need to find enough drivers to transport students to and from school. Bus driver shortages can also have real consequences on daily school operations.
In a recent survey of over 220 districts conducted by HopSkipDrive, a rideshare company providing transportation for children and older adults, 92% said the driver shortage “constrained” their operations, and 39% said they had to cut down on their transit services as a result of driver vacancies this year.
Districts cited the top contributing factors for these shortages as challenges with recruiting new drivers, competition with the private industry, insufficient wages and an uptick in retiring drivers.