Mayor Bloomberg has declared that it would be “irresponsible” for school bus personnel to strike, as if his own actions in putting up contracts to provide service to Special Education students have had no role in bringing about the likelihood of a Jan. 16 walkout.

His administration has defended the decision not to make the Employee Protection Provision that has been a standard part of city contracts with the companies performing school bus transport part of the new bidding by citing a recent Court of Appeals ruling the Mayor claims makes it illegal to include it. Union officials disagree, with the State AFL-CIO claiming that ruling “does not apply” to this situation.

The state labor federation also cited past city arguments in favor of that clause, which protects the seniority system and employee pay levels, such as: “EPPs advanced competitive bidding goals by...facilitating the use of proven, experienced workers, hence enhancing quality.”

The unions suspect the administration has taken its position for ideological reasons: that Mr. Bloomberg, unable to bring corporate employment practices to bear when it comes to Teachers, has looked to gain greater flexibility to hire and fire regarding another unionized group. They point out that neither salaries nor fringe benefits for the bus personnel are extravagant, and they are actually inferior to those enjoyed by New York City Transit employees in similar positions.

Mr. Bloomberg contends that the bidding process—the first one since the late 1970s—is aimed solely at saving the city money. But the decision not to include the EPP—or, if the city believed the court decision made it unenforceable, some other way of protecting rights related to job security—virtually dares Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union to carry out its announced strike.

Because the employer in this case is technically the bus companies rather than the city, the Taylor Law prohibiting strikes by public employees does not apply. The administration may be counting on using a public-relations offensive to rally support against a strike, due to both the inconvenience it would create for parents and the union’s tarnished past as a subsidiary of the Genovese Crime Family.

But the malefactors who bent the knee to organized crime have since died or gone to prison, and there is no evidence at this time that the rot of the past has lingered. And so this conflict should be judged for what it is: working people whose livelihoods are being threatened considering whether to use the most-powerful leverage they have to protect their jobs and benefits.

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