Boston, MA, United States (4E) – Boston City’s school bus drivers went on a wildcat strike Tuesday morning catching more than 30,000 students, their parents and public officials by surprise.
Schools’ e-mail and call alerts sent out to parents after 5 a.m., when the strike by drivers of all four bus yards was learned, failed to arrange alternative ways for students to get to school. Mayor Thomas M. Menino offered stranded students free rides on Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority buses. Police also took stranded students to schools.
Only 30 of the 650 city school buses managed to operate as the drivers union stopped working to protest alleged mistreatment by the schools’ transportation vendor, Veolia.
Menino told reporters in a news conference that he will ask the court to order drivers to return to work. Veolia assistant general manager Jonathan Sander was at the conference accusing drivers of resisting the company’s efforts to ensure safe, on-time, and quality service for passengers.
The United Steelworkers (USW) Local 8751, which represents approximately 700 school bus drivers working for Veolia, said members were frustrated with Veolia. Steve Kirschbaum, chairman of the grievance committee for the union, said Veolia changed their health care plan and implemented new procedures.
The union at the Readville bus yard had filed a complaint before the National Labor Relations Board claiming that Veolia refused to bargain with the union, had unilaterally implemented changes to terms and conditions of their contract, had refused to recognize their union and its officers, and had refused to abide by the grievance and arbitration process.
Drivers also complained of increased GPS monitoring of where school buses are and of some drivers not getting paychecks on Friday and are still waiting to be paid because of payroll issues.
But the United Steelworkers all members of Local 8751 to immediately cease the strike and resume work as soon as possible,” USW District 4 Director John Shinn said, according to Boston.com.
Drivers tried to resume work in the afternoon but guards at the bus yards turned them away and locked the gates to prevent them from entering. They were told that they have violated their contracts for striking in the morning.