Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why We Support New York City Bus Drivers On Strike

By: Joe Fedele

In 1979 the average income was $17,500, a Sony Walkman was $200.00, and a gallon of gas was .86 cents. It was also the last time New York City Bus Drivers were forced to strike to save their jobs.

On January 17, 2013, members of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union went on strike for a simple reason, to protect their jobs.  As is with most unions, seniority is an essential piece of a union contract.   New York City however, has made a move to end seniority-based job guarantees, a cornerstone in ATU 1181’s contract.

Seniority is crucial to ATU 1181 members for two reasons. One, senior ATU 1181 members have top choice in selecting bus routes each school year.  Two, seniority guarantees re-hiring and job placement when drivers are laid off because their bus company has lost a city contract to run bus routes.

The first reason, the pick of a bus route, is more of a reward for tenure and years serving New York City.  The second however, is their livelihood, it guarantees workers the ability to feed and support their family each year, a protection that cannot be compromised.

Mayor Bloomberg’s Administration seeks to end seniority rights, which would not require companies to hire laid-off drivers.  The move would adjust the city’s bottom line by destroying decades of job protections and union families’ livelihoods. Allison Kilkenny of The Nation said of the move to end seniority rights, “It creates a system in which workers entrusted to be responsible for a child’s safety are utterly replaceable in the name of protecting the bottom line.”

Nearly 5,000 of New York City’s 7,700 bus routes have been shut down due to the strike. We have stood with ATU 1181 since day one.   President Bruce Both has called and written to Mayor Bloomberg, expressing our disgust and disappointment, instructing him, “Not everything is about the bottom line.” There is a disturbing growing trend throughout our country; it is to find a “better deal” at the expense of workers rights.  That is outright inexcusable.

We'll be marching in solidarity with striking ATU 1189 members this Sunday across the Brooklyn Bridge at 12:30 PM.  Then rallying at City Hall with hundreds of NYC Union Members.  Check out all the photos of our awesome members who walked the picket lines and kept striking ATU members warm with hot chocolate and hand warmers here: http://goo.gl/l1td6

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