BPS Buses Back on Roads [Update]

The impromptu strike left 33,000 students stranded on Tuesday morning.

boston bus strike


UPDATE, Wednesday morning: Most of the bus drivers reported for work this morning with only a few reported delays, a day after an impromptu strike that left BPS students stranded and parents scrambling.

UPDATE, Tuesday evening: A judge denied the city an injunction to force Boston Public School bus drivers back to work Wednesday, and now, Mayor Tom Menino is “extremely angry.”

During a press conference on Tuesday evening, after city officials went to court to try and rectify the impromptu strike that left 33,000 Boston students without a ride to school, Menino said it was “not clear” whether bus drivers would be back on the roads in time to collect children for Wednesday morning classes. “Our young people should not be hurt because of selfish people who only want to cause disruption in our city,” Menino said. “Our parents are stronger and our school community is stronger than this union may think, and we will continue to make sure all safety standards are met.”

Despite the strike on Tuesday, the school system had 82 percent of its students in class today, approximately 10 percent lower than usual. To help with the uncertainty on Wednesday, schools will open an hour early so that parents dropping off their kids can plan accordingly, giving them enough time to get to work. The MBTA will again offer free rides to any student, according to city officials. Students under the age of 11 must be accompanied on the MBTA by an adult.

The union that represents the bus drivers who didn’t show up for work told a judge that the employees acted on their own, and union representatives did not condone their actions, but Menino was skeptical of the claim.

If drivers don’t return to their jobs on Wednesday, the city has threatened to take the issue back to court, and to seek monetary damages caused by the strike. “Hopefully tomorrow morning we will find that all the bus drivers will return to work, if not, [we] will return to court, and it would be appropriate for the court to issue an injunction,” Menino said.

EARLIER: City of Boston Seeking Court Injunction to Get Bus Drivers Back On the Road: Parents of BPS students will have to pick up their kids from school on Tuesday as the drivers in charge of operating buses in the city continue their strike.

But Mayor Tom Menino has vowed to take every action possible against the drivers’ union—including filing an immediate injunction in court to get drivers to return to work—so that business as usual can resume by Wednesday morning. “This strike has cost the city because of overtime for officers, and others employed during the work stoppage,” Menino said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. “And there is also the cost that we can’t put a finger on, which is for the parents that didn’t go to work today, or who had to find daycare for their children. Those are the people really being affected… I want all these bus drivers back to work tomorrow morning.”

Menino said there would be no buses operating, or picking up students, Tuesday. He asked that parents plan accordingly to arrange pick-up times for students. Additionally, all afternoon athletic programs have been cancelled.

The disruption in service came after union workers decided not to show up for work in a move that took city officials—and parents—by surprise. The illegal strike affected more than 33,000 students in the Boston Public school system. Only 30 of the school system’s 650 buses were on the road Tuesday.

“Too many times our children have been used to advance the interest of a small number of adults. That is not right … and it will not be tolerated,” said interim Boston Public Schools Superintendent John McDonough, during the conference with Menino.

City officials said the workers failed to give any proper notice about the walkout, leaving families without resources to get children to school safely and on time.

Veolia Transportation contracts with the Boston Public Schools to operate a school bus fleet. Bus drivers are the employees of Veolia, not the City of Boston. They are represented by the U.S. Steelworkers Union, who urged those drivers on strike to return to work for violating conditions of a contract they signed with Veolia Transportation over the summer. In a letter obtained by Bloomberg News, union representatives said they do not condone the actions of the drivers of Local 8751, and called on them to “cease” the strike.

“They signed a contract that is now in place. Come back to work, work with your leadership and let’s make sure children can get home…safely,” said Menino staffer Marie St. Fleur, addressing the union workers on strike. “That’s what you agreed to, and that’s what you get paid for, and we are ready to work with you through any issues you may have.”

Menino is continuing to work with Boston Public Schools, the Boston Police Department, and the Boston Center for Youth and Families to assist families however possible. The MBTA has also offered free rides to any student who can show a school ID. Children under 11-years-old, however, must be accompanied by an adult on public transportation.

If drivers are unwilling to negotiate, and return to the roads on Wednesday, city officials will notify parents using a system they have in place to get information out to the public, Menino said.