Judge Orders School Bus Companies to Rescind ‘Illegal’ Wage Cuts
Gonzalez: Brooklyn federal judge's decision a huge victory for school bus drivers and matrons
Judge Kiyo Matsumoto ordered 28 school bus companies to restore cuts in wages and benefits that the firms slapped on their employees in the midst of talks over a new labor contract. In a win for the bus employees, Matsumoto commanded the bus companies to resume bargaining with the bus drivers union.
|Judge Kiyo Matsumato|
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2013, 8:37 PM
A Brooklyn federal judge has handed the city’s 8,800 school bus drivers and matrons a huge back-to-school victory.
Judge Kiyo Matsumoto issued an injunction last week ordering 28 school bus companies to restore across-the-board cuts in wages and benefits that those firms slapped on their employees this year.
The wage cuts — a stiff 7.5% for drivers and 3.75% for bus matrons — were suddenly imposed by the companies in April in the midst of talks over a new labor contract. The owners also reduced overtime, eliminated Easter and Christmas week pay, and instituted cuts in health insurance contributions.
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The judge ordered the owners to immediately resume “good-faith bargaining” with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, the bus drivers union. Union leaders hope the new talks drag out until Mayor Bloomberg leaves office in four months, believing his successor will be more sensitive to their needs.
The pay cuts by the owners came only weeks after a turbulent bus strike that left parents of more than 100,000 public school children — many of them with special needs — scrambling for a month to get their kids to class.
The bus drivers union called the walkout a desperate effort to stop Bloomberg from eliminating employee protection provisions from a new set of bus contracts the city Education Department was set to award.
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Those protections had for decades ensured that school bus workers could keep their jobs no matter what companies were hired by the city.
But the mayor refused to budge, claiming those protections had been ruled illegal by a state court. The bus strike thus turned into a dismal failure. Soon after, the bus owners declared an impasse in their contract talks with the union. Insisting they needed lower pay scales to remain competitive with a new group of bus contract bidders, the older firms then unilaterally imposed wage reductions on their entire workforce.
It was a sharp blow for drivers, whose top pay until then had been $50,000. Bus matrons earned just $28,000.
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But in a 36-page decision released last Thursday, Matsumoto ordered an immediate reversal of those actions.
She made her ruling at the request of the National Labor Relations Board, which held a hearing in late July to determine whether the bus owners’ actions violated federal labor law. Even though the board has yet to issue a final decision in the case, it nonetheless petitioned Matsumoto for the injunction because of its “reasonable cause to believe that unfair labor practices have been committed.”
Federal labor law requires that an impasse can be declared only when both sides agree, not when one side acts, Matsumoto noted.
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She cited testimony at the NLRB hearing that “union members are having trouble paying bills, feared losing their homes (and) were going bankrupt,” and that “irreparable harm” could come to their collective bargaining rights unless their previous wages and working conditions were restored.
A separate NLRB hearing process is expected to decide whether the workers will also get back wages.
“We believe the judge's decision was erroneous and have already filed our notice of appeal,” said Jeff Pollack, attorney for the bus companies. “We are ready to go back to the table immediately and start negotiating a fair and reasonable contract.”
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“It’s nice to win a battle for a change,” said Michael Cordiello, president of Local 1181. “Hopefully, we will get a new mayor who helps us.”
And Cordiello has good reason to hope.
Four of the leading Democratic contenders for mayor, Bill de Blasio, Bill Thompson, Christine Quinn and John Liu, all publicly opposed Bloomberg’s stance during the bus strike and promised to revisit the employee protection provisions if elected.
So if you see a big smile on the face of your child’s bus matron or driver this school year, now you’ll know why.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/gonzalez-judge-decision-victory-bus-drivers-article-1.1444999#ixzz2f4Be6gdp