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

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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.

At the heart of the bus strike is a dispute over the bidding process for a bus contract to replace one due to expire in June.

The school district currently spends an average of $6,900 per year for each bused student, more than double the cost of the next most expensive district of Los Angeles.

“It is just irrational for us to keep spending this amount of money unless there’s no alternative, and we’re going to find out whether there’s an alternative by putting the contracts out to bid,” said Mayor Bloomberg Wednesday.

New York City Schools already got new contracts for pre-K busing, and officials say that will save $95 million over five years. The current bid under dispute is for 1,100 routes that serve K-12 students with disabilities, but the union is striking beyond those routes.

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