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Labor union needs to comply with yellow bus drivers demands

Yana Paskova | The New York Times

Change in the school transportation business was long overdue. School bus drivers deserve their flowers too, and bus companies should honor their demands for fair wages and benefits.

Discussions around the possibility of a school bus union strike incited during the first week of school due to the shortage of bus drivers, low pay and inadequate benefits, according to The New York Post. A much-needed union strike would reform the way yellow bus transport services are implemented and how much workers are compensated. 

Contract negotiations regarding a pay increase with the yellow bus companies are still ongoing between the Amalgamated Transit Union and the Department of Education. Currently, new drivers earn $22 per hour. 

The wage rate drivers are asking for is unknown, but they should be getting paid at a higher rate to keep up with the rising cost of living in New York City.

John A. Costa, the international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said that the union’s relationship with yellow bus drivers is the way it is because of the lack of funding during the COVID pandemic and the privatization of school bus services.

Additionally, the nationwide shortage of bus drivers, Costa argues, is due to the lack of the work benefits, low pay and long work hours. It’s not a career appealing to any reasonable person, and such financial issues have left bus drivers in a difficult situation. 

Without funding for the school bus industry during the pandemic, there were many layoffs when the shutdowns started. As local politicians and the Department of Education disregarded the struggles of yellow bus drivers, the disposable and powerless position of bus drivers was brought to light.

Furthermore, bus drivers don’t get severance pay like teachers. They do not have a safety net to fall back on after massive layoffs and company downsizing.

In NYC, bus drivers work under a two-tier wage system, which means that employers could pay one group of workers, who have seniority and experience, more than a group of new hires. The system was a result of concessions unfavorably decided by the Bloomberg administration.

The system’s goal is to establish a merit pay scheme that rewards productive workers without increasing overall wage costs. However, this system needs a rehaul, as a system that worked in the late 1980s won’t be functional in today’s modern world. 

This approach is usually adopted by industries with a high rate of turnover for new hires and for good reason: the system is outdated and is an ineffective method of payment.

Tomas Fret, ATU’s president, is prioritizing job protections for city school bus drivers. He wants to bring back the School Bus Bill of Rights that would restore employee protection provisions. 

Following these provisions would ultimately solve most problems reported by public-school parents, the same parents of disabled and low-income students dependent on school buses to drop kids at school. 

There would no longer be an issue of buses often arriving late or not showing up at all due to long routes as there would be one school campus per route and a maximum route length of 90 minutes.

Ensuring that yellow bus drivers have a good contract that reflects their diligent work is necessary in order to get city kids to their schools.

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