(Update) Menino, education officials slam Boston school bus drivers for illegal wildcat strike

Nanette Cromartie, a mother of a BPS student, confronts bus drivers who are currently striking. (Metro photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki)
Nanette Cromartie, a mother of a BPS student, confronts striking bus drivers. Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

Calling the 635 Boston school bus drivers who staged an illegal and unannounced work strike today “selfish people who only want to cause disruption to our city,” Mayor Thomas Menino said it was unclear whether drivers would return to their jobs Wednesday.

“This is extremely frustrating for (parents),” Menino said at 6:15 p.m. press conference at City Hall. “I don’t blame them for being angry. I’m angry.”

A federal judge on Tuesday denied an emergency injunction request that would have, essentially, forced the drivers to return to work.

The MBTA will provide students with free transportation Wednesday, and Boston Public Schools will open one hour earlier than usual to accommodate alternative transportation arrangements.

More than 33,000 students are affected by the strike. Despite the disruption, 82 percent of Boston students were in class yesterday, Menino said.

“This union can’t stop our schools from educationg our young ones. The only thing in jeopardy is their own livelihood,” he said of the striking drivers.

Drivers who belong to the United Steelworkers of America Local 8751 union staged the wildcat strike in protest of tight driving schedules, lack of bathroom breaks, the elimination of Daily Bus Reports and extensive payroll problems.

On Tuesday, workers at the yard watched the news as local media aired coverage of the strike. Some meandered around the grounds, which were packed with buses, while others sat at tables inside an employee area, playing cards.

“It’s not that we don’t want to drive kids to school. We love driving the kids. We want to make sure they get to school on time, and have breakfast. I wouldn’t be doing this for 23 years if I didn’t love it,” said Olysa Brument, a driver and union chief steward.

Brument said drivers have reached their breaking point due to what they consider to be heightened demands imposed by Veolia Transportation, a public transportation company that took over the system’s bus contract this summer. The company assumed responsibility for operational management of the city’s school bus services in July, but since the school year began, Brument said drivers worry about hitting traffic and red lights because their routes are so tight.

“It is unsafe for us to drive and worry about timing. We often have no bathroom breaks. We do push ourselves to get our kids to school, and we want to be treated fairly even if we are running late. They are supposed to pay us for the full time that we drove, and they are not doing that,” said Brument. “We have no problem going to work, but we’re stressed out.”

Nanette Cromartie, left, a parent of a child in public school in Dorchester, comes down to the bus yard to confront drivers. Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

“All you’re doing is keeping my son from going to school, keeping me from going to work,” Nanette Cromartie, who confronted striking drivers at the Freeport Street bus yard in Dorchester.

Striking drivers sit in the bus yard.
Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

The drivers are also protesting the new web tool that allows families to track the location of their child’s school bus in real time.

Boston school buses remain in the bus yard this morning.
Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

The United Steelworkers District 4 Director John Shinn released a statement Tuesday condemning the strike.

“This activity does not represent the majority of our members, who believe that our issues with Veolia Transportation must be addressed through proper avenues including our contractual grievance procedure and the National Labor Relations Board,” Shinn said.

Automated phone calls went out to families Tuesday morning about the strike action. For those with questions, the district has also expanded its transportation hotline to answer families’ questions at (617) 635-9520 and the mayor’s 24-hour hotline is available at (617) 635-4500.

Families can also check the location of their school bus in real time using the ”Where’s My School Bus” app, at http://schoolbus.bostonpublicschools.org.

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Mayor reveals new tech hub Digital.NYC

Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed Digital.NYC on Wednesday, a new online platform aimed at connecting all things tech in New York City. The public-private partnership…

Local

Falling debris hits two men in Times Square

Two men were taken to the hospital Wednesday morning after being hit by falling debris from 110 feet above Times Square. Nancy Greco from the…

Local

Queens Assemblyman William Scarborough accused of misusing campaign…

Queens Assemblyman William Scarborough has been indicted on state and federal charges for allegedly withdrawing campaign funds as cash for personal use. Scarborough, a Democrat…

News

U.S. Secret Service director Pierson resigns under fire

U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned under fire on Wednesday after a series of security lapses came to light.

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, Oct. 1: 'Criminal Minds,'…

The "Criminal Minds" team adds some supernatural assistance, as the "Ghost Whisperer" herself, Jennifer Love Hewitt, joins the show. She's playing an FBI agent, but you never know when someone…

Music

See the most popular Pandora station in your…

Who knew Bachata music was so popular?

The Word

The Word: Twilight just won't die

You thought our "Twilight" days were behind us, didn't you? Well think again. Series creator Stephenie Meyer (who would rather you not ask about "Twilight"…

Going Out

Which NYC restaurant lost its three-star Michelin rating?

A record 73 restaurants in New York City collected coveted Michelin stars on Tuesday as a mix of trendy spots and fine-dining stalwarts underscored the…

NFL

Rex Ryan fields more questions about Geno Smith,…

The idea Geno Smith will be replaced by backup Michael Vick appears to be all smoke, as the Jets are intent to ride with their second-round draft pick.

NFL

Will Beatty playing like franchise left tackle again…

Left tackle Will Beatty, who is the elder-statesman of Giants’ line, has turned around his season and become a consistent force on Manning’s blindside.

NFL

John Conner back with Jets for second stint

He'll be back. It's "Terminator 2" for the Jets, who brought back John Conner to the team on Tuesday after placing fullback Tommy Bohanon on…

NFL

Fantasy football: Ben Tate to break out, Larry…

Fantasy football: Ben Tate to break out, Larry Donnell will stay solid

Career

Creating a support system for minority women in…

When Kathryn Finney founded digitalundivided — an organization devoted to engaging minority communities with the tech world — she didn’t know quite what to expect.…

Sex

We can learn a lot from animals about…

There’s a lot we can learn about love from the birds and the bees — and the chickens, monkeys and squirrels that we share the…

Style

Saint Laurent

Our review of the Saint Laurent Spring '15 show at Paris Fashion Week.

Style

Céline: Paris Fashion Week Spring 2015

Our review of the Celine Spring '15 show during Paris Fashion Week.