City & State – Top Union Leaders to Gov. Cuomo: End NYC’s School Bus Crisis

NYHTC — March 14, 2019

For decades, the City of New York understood the importance of creating and maintaining a skilled, professional and experienced work force to care for and safely transport our school children, many of whom have special needs.

Since 1979, the New York City school bus industry achieved that fundamental goal by using Employee Protection Provisions (EPPs) in the City’s contracts with school bus companies. In brief, the EPPs meant that, based on the number of years an employee worked in the industry, he or she would follow the work if it went to another company and would maintain his or her wages, benefits and years of service. The EPPs applied equally to all industry employees, whether or not they were represented by a union.

For over three decades, the EPPs ensured a professional, skilled, experienced, caring workforce who earned a living wage with decent benefits. The children and their parents enjoyed the certainty and continuity of dedicated drivers and attendants who knew and cared for them. In addition, the EPPs led to decades of labor peace.

In 2012, Mayor Bloomberg removed the EPPs from contracts for school bus employers. This triggered an expensive 5-week strike. It also destabilized the industry, sent wages and benefits spiraling down, drove thousands of experienced drivers and attendants out of the industry, and created a turbulent, low wage, high turnover, unsafe work environment in an industry previously noteworthy for its reliability and stability.

New York State should never reward contractors who drive down fair wages and benefits. But that is exactly what has happened in the New York City school bus system since 2012. Today, many New York City school bus drivers, mechanics, and matrons are forced to live on near poverty wages. As such, the EPPs must be included in this year’s final budget package.

The fiscal impact of the EPPs is clear. Vice President Joe Biden’s former Chief Economic Adviser recently conducted the first comprehensive economic analysis of EPPs and found that codifying these provisions into state law would save taxpayers nearly $115 million in this upcoming fiscal year, and $288.7 million over the next five years.

For generations, mayors in New York City, regardless of party, agreed that EPPs were an essential ingredient in every school bus contract between school bus companies and New York City. Mayor de Blasio also agreed and restored the EPPs back in the bid for new city contracts with school bus companies. Irresponsible contractors sued to eliminate the EPPs and a court decision last December identified the need for a fix to state law. Now is the time to include the EPPs in the final enacted FY 2019-2020 state budget.

There is no time to wait. Children’s safety and their parents’ peace of mind are paramount. Without action this year, more chaos is inevitable. We cannot and must not force workers—or New York’s public school families—to pay the price any longer.

Michael Cordiello, President, ATU Local 1181
Mario Cilento, President, NYS AFL-CIO
Peter Ward, President, HTC