900 NYC School Bus Workers Vote to Strike
Strike at Jofaz and Y&M bus companies could start as soon as Tuesday, affecting thousands of students
Union calls on boss to drop proposals to increase healthcare costs and reduce holidays
BROOKLYN, NY – School bus drivers and attendants at Jofaz Transportation and Y&M Transit voted to authorize a strike at a union meeting Wednesday night, over increased healthcare costs and reduced holidays. An overwhelming majority of workers who participated in the vote – 85% – voted to authorize the strike. The work stoppage could begin as soon as Tuesday, November 1st, the day after the current contract extension expires. It would involve about 900 workers and thousands of students.
Jofaz and Y&M are two of the largest school bus companies in New York City and share the same owner and the same union contract. The Department of Education contracts with the companies to provide special education and general education pupil transport in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.
“These are the workers that we entrust with the safety of our children, but starting wages for school bus attendants aren’t much higher than minimum wage,” said Demos Demopoulos, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 553. “To increase the healthcare costs for these workers, many of whom are single mothers, is patently unfair. And it does not exist in any of our other contracts.”
“We are willing to strike to get justice for these school bus workers, but we hope it doesn’t come to that,” said Demopoulos. “The employer can resolve this contract at any time if he is willing to treat the workers with respect.”
Workers are also opposed to a company plan to take away five holidays, using New York City’s new Paid Sick Days law, which requires five paid sick days at all businesses, as an excuse.
“To say I shouldn’t get holiday pay for Thanksgiving, or for MLK Day, just because I called out when I was sick? That is so disrespectful,” said Lisa Cilone, a Jofaz school bus driver.
“We love our jobs and care deeply about the kids, but our children need to be protected too and we will go on strike to protect them,” said Cilone.
After the union’s contract expired in June, Teamster leaders decided to extend the contract twice, hoping to reach an agreement without impacting students. “We’ve tried to work with the owner, but the company has been unwilling sign a fair contract for workers,” said Demopoulos.
Teamsters Local 553 is one of two dozen Teamster local unions in the New York City area, representing 120,000 workers.
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