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New York school bus strike: sign of national pressure on unions (+video)

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About 152,000 students – 11 percent of public school students in New York – rely on school buses, which cover 7,700 routes. Forty percent of the buses were running Wednesday, the city said, because they are not driven by members of the striking Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181.

Other bused students have had to find alternative ways to school since Wednesday. The city has been providing metro cards and reimbursing families for driving or sending students in taxis, but that hasn’t quelled the frustrations of some parents who have had their work schedules disrupted. Some parents, on the other hand, support the strikers.

Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has had a series of fights with the teachers union, and on Friday the city and the union blamed each other for missing the state’s midnight Thursday deadline to come up with a new teacher evaluation plan, putting the schools at risk of losing up to $450 million.

The nationwide attention that strikes, rooted in very local fights, tend to receive now is another indication of how unions have weakened in recent decades. “It’s sad that it’s seen as a novelty,” says Zev Eigen, associate professor of law at Northwestern University. It also means that unions have to pick their fights carefully, he says, because public sympathy will go down if a strike is not tied to a substantial issue of fairness.

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