Elected officials and union leaders demonstrated by City Hall Wednesday afternoon to demand that Mayor Michael Bloomberg meet with yellow bus drivers and matrons to settle their strike for job protection and hash out a state-required evaluation system for educators with the teachers' union.
Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 began the second week of their strike Wednesday by holding picket lines outside Tweed Courthouse, the Department of Education's Lower Manhattan headquarters, and other locations like a bus depot in Coney Island.
The striking bus union wants the city to include Employee Protection Provisions (EPPs) in its new busing contracts, to ensure jobs for unionized senior employees.
Education officials say they cannot legally guarantee those protections. Mayor Michael Bloomberg also said that he is not responsible for negotiating, since the drivers work for private bus companies rather than the city.
While there is no movement towards resolving the issues behind the strike, the city is making moves to try and get students to school despite the work stoppage.
Roughly 150,000 public school students have been affected by the strike, including more than 50,000 in special education, and families have been forced to find alternate ways to get their children to class.
The DOE is setting up a voucher program so low-income students with disabilities can take taxis or car service to school and have it billed directly to the city, rather than have it reimbursed later.
They are also working with bus companies to allow drivers from a different union to double up as chaperones, even though chaperones usually require a certification.
The city has also moved up the start date for new bus contracts, inviting companies to bid for business that would start before next September.
Bus companies have also been training new drivers to replace the union workers on strike.
The DOE says police are investigating a report that at one of those yards, 11 buses had their tires slashed or deflated Wednesday morning.
The union said it has instructed its members to follow the law.
"We're conducting a civil strike," said Jimmy Hedge of the executive board of Local 1181. "We move away from the driveways when the buses move out. They're told, 'Please do not get arrested, please do not do anything that you're going to be sorry for later, or make us look bad in the long run.'"
The ongoing strike comes as the city DOE has lost $240 million in state education aid for failing to meet a state deadline to agreeing with the United Federation of Teachers on a new evaluation system.
Some strikers from Local 1181 joined elected officials on the steps of City Hall Wednesday afternoon to insist that the mayor return to the negotiating table with the UFT and Local 1181.
"This is about demanding that this city administration sit down and resolve these two issues, major issues that are impacting our children," said Manhattan Councilman Robert Jackson, the chair of the council's education committee.
"He's engaged in a pissing match with the unions at the expense of our children," said Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams. "That's what's going on. Expense of our children and their education."
Meanwhile, the National Labor Relations Board is hearing arguments and determining the legality of the ongoing school bus workers' strike.
Bus company owners lodged a complaint with the board last week, though a decision is not expected any time soon.
Even if the NLRB rules that the strike is illegal, board members would need a court injunction before they could order drivers and matrons back to work.