Bus Strike Disrupts City Schools
Menino and Candidates Respond to School Bus Strike
Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 23:10
The ever-present yellow school buses were conspicuously absent from Boston streets this Tuesday morning. Disgruntled Boston Public School bus drivers went on a surprise strike, disrupting transportation plans for thousands of Boston students.
According to Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s office, 33,000 students and their families have been impacted by this strike. Menino is “extremely angry” at the drivers, calling it an “illegal work stoppage.”
The mayor’s office reported 82 percent attendance on Tuesday, 10 percent below the average attendance.
Due to the uncertainty, extra measures were taken by the city to prepare for Wednesday. All schools opened one hour early to allow for early drop off. Menino asked parents to drive their students or seek other alternate routes. The MBTA is offering free rides to any student, provided that an adult accompanies students under the age of 11. An excused absence will be given to students that cannot make it to class.
While the inconvenience factor is obvious, the effects of the strike could run deep. Teachers and schools are doing their best to maintain normalcy in the classroom despite the disruption.
Mayoral candidates John R. Connolly, BC ’01, and Marty Walsh, BC ’09, both took the time to respond to the bus strike.
“It is shameful for the school bus drivers union to use our children as pawns in a political game,” said Connolly, a Boston city councilor, in a statement. “This is about safety first and foremost, and it is totally unacceptable that our children were put at risk this morning, not to mention the impact on thousands of parents who will miss work.”
Walsh, a state representative and former union official who has been defined throughout the race as an advocate for workers, echoed this sentiment in a statement of his own.
“Kids and parents must come first. This is wrong,” Walsh said. “The bus drivers have put our children in harm’s way. This is an illegal action, causing a huge disruption, and I call on the bus drivers to return to work immediately.”
City councilor and mayoral candidate John R. Connolly voiced the fears of many in the community. “Missing even one day of school is a real problem for our children who face a daunting achievement gap,” he said.
Tests and after-school events have been rescheduled in response to the strike.
Despite the efforts of Menino and Boston Public Schools Superintendent John McDonough, the effects of the strike could be felt throughout the greater city community as well. Safety of the students was a primary concern. According to The Boston Herald, the overtime costs for the Boston Police Department had already reached $40,000 by Tuesday evening. In addition, many students missed class and parents stayed home from work because of the strike.
The strike stemmed from a conflict between the drivers and the transportation contractor, Veolia Transportation. The company went to Federal Court Tuesday afternoon to seek legal action that would bring the strike to an end. According to Menino’s office, they will continue to peruse all legal action possible.
The Boston Herald reported that judge George A. O’Toole, Jr. said he cannot rule to force drivers onto their routes until seeing their response to their own union telling them to return to work.
The Boston Globe reported that the grievances of the workers “included changes in their health care plan, payroll problems, and new procedures by Veolia.” Veolia took over the bussing contract this year. Other problems cited were the refusal to bargain with the union from Veolia, refusal to recognize their union and its officers, and refusal to follow the grievance and arbitration process.
Even though there has been unrest between the company and the union since Veolia took over in July, the spark that seemed to ignite the protest was the firing of a very popular bus yard manager in Readville.
Although busses began rolling again Wednesday morning, city officials were not appeased. According to the Associated Press, the dispute which sparked the strike was not settled. Drivers only agreed to go back to work once negotiations with their parent bus company, Veoila Transportation, Inc., were in place to discuss employee grievances. Officials have asked parents to remain alert and available to transport their children, should a conflict arise again.