New York City school bus drivers remain on strike because Mayor Michael Bloomberg refuses to require provisions in upcoming competitive bids for operating the yellow bus system that proven, experienced and trained drivers and bus monitors retain their jobs.
While Bloomberg continues to vilify the drivers, the bus matrons and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) as "greedy villains" bankrupting the city, New York Daily News columnist Denis Hamill paints a real-life picture in a recent column. He profiles Vic and Lucy DiBitetto—a school bus driver and matron on the same Staten Island bus route caring for kids with autism, multiple sclerosis and physical and developmental challenges.
Vic drives all over Staten Island every morning picking up 20 special-education kids, most developmentally challenged, and Lucy is a matron—trained in things like CPR—tending to the safety of these special-needs children aboard the bus as they bring them to Intermediate School 61. During the day, the DiBitettos often take the kids on school trips. In the afternoon, they drive them home.
Lucy DiBitetto tells Hamill:
Well, safety is what we provide every morning from the moment the children step on our bus until we drop them back home in the afternoon. I love my job. But $15 an hour in exchange for 12 years’ experience providing safety for special-needs children isn’t what’s wrong with the city….I’m a mom. I raised two kids in this city. Believe me, when a mom entrusts me with her child. I take that responsibility seriously. All we ask in return is fairness, job and pension security.
Many parents support the union because they understand that reliable and well-trained drivers enhance the safety and well-being of their children, especially those with special needs.
He disputes Bloomberg’s claim that a court ruling prevents him, including the long-standing provision that requires retention of the trained and experienced drivers and monitors in the bid to operate the bus service.
The mayor claimed the courts would not allow the current Employment Protection Provisions, but that is not true. The mayor's politics drive his legal position, and he counts on the public to not understand. The city could certainly seek bids while protecting the jobs of experienced drivers and matrons.