By KATELYN HRUBY
Striking school bus workers protested at the steps of City Hall Thursday, demanding that Mayor Bloomberg comply with their demands in the walkout that has dragged on since January 15.
Bus workers of the Amalgamated Transit Union, walked OUT in a dispute with the mayor over putting out bids for bus companies that don’t provide Employee Protection Provisions, guaranteeing pensions, medical benefits, and job protection.
While marching in solidarity, the strikers chanted, flanked by police officers and curious onlookers. “What do we want?” one strike captain bellowed, to a chorus of “EPP!”
Ernest Pierre, a driver and strike captain, said the group was picketing in collaboration with another group at Barclays Center, creating a vociferous presence at the site Mayor’s State of the City speech.
Pierre insisted that drivers would not relent until the mayor agrees to negotiate with the bus workers’ powerlins ii union. The two sides are at a stalemate. “All he wants to do is take out the EPP. That’s it,” remarked Pierre.
The EPP provides benefits for those who Pierre says are “first and foremost, barely making enough,” citing the high costs of New York City living.
This demand, Pierre asserts, is not unreasonable. “The bus company makes $160,000 per bus, per year. That is more than enough to cover a driver and an escort,” he added.
Pierre branded the mayor’s stance “a question of more money for the billionaire and his friends.”
With bidding on bus contracts for the next school year commencing, the strike may soon end. Many bus companies that employ union workers have filed lawsuits to remove the EPP from their policy, in order to remain competitive against nonunion private companies.
In his State of the City address this afternoon, Bloomberg briefly commented on the bus strike, and the recently opened bidding. “This has the potential of hundreds of millions of dollars in savings and we will plow that money back into the schools where it belongs,” Bloomberg said, of giving contracts to nonunion companies.
Bloomberg went on to attack the moral integrity of striking workers, saying, “This strike is a lost cause. Stop hurting our families and our children.”
Ryan Delgado, spokesman for the Amalgamated Transit Union was unavailable for comment.