Epstein on NYC School Bus Strike

Unions vs. Our Kids
Richard A. Epstein
Defining Ideas
January 22, 2013

People who spend any time in New York City are quick to inure themselves to the vicissitudes of everyday life. But even the hard-of-heart have found it difficult to ignore the personal accounts of the thousands of families that have been dislocated by the decision of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union to initiate a school bus strike this past Wednesday. Some 8,800 drivers and matrons, whose incomes average about $35,000 per year, went on strike, shutting down about 70 percent of the City’s 7,700 school bus routes.

The dispute centers on New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to introduce a system of competitive bids that would allow the City to find some lower-price providers. As the AP reports, there is a lot of running room for financial improvement because of the grim statistics of the schools’ position. New York City has 1.1 million public schoolchildren—which means that a citywide operation is likely to suffer from major diseconomies of scale. Of these students, some 152,000 ride yellow school buses.

In their ranks are 54,000 children who suffer from a variety of disabilities. Many of them are in wheelchairs. Others suffer from disabilities like severe autism that make it impossible for them to travel to school alone in safety. Their attendance at school was down sharply in the wake of the strike. These individual stories are well set out in the New York Times.

Richard A. Epstein


Pretty sad..

I think everybody has a right to initiate a strike ... but I don't find it ok that those kids will suffer.  I wish they could find a solution to both parties.

Best regards,


NYC school bus strike

No where in your argument addresses the issue that the city negotiates with private companies that provide school busing.  The union works for those private companies, that have current contracts--about to expire--with the city.

NYC school Bus Strike


I do not believe Mr. Epstein's comments mislead anyone nor did he leave anything material out of his descriptions of the relationships between the parties.

Without regard to that, I am a bit confused about your point.  First and foremost, the Union does not "work" for either the city or the bus companies.  Individual people work for the companies, some are members of a union, some are not.  Further, if as you say, it's important to note that the employees work for private companies, why are they striking those companies for proposals the city is putting forth for its future services?  It seems the union mebers are punishing the private companies (their actual employers) and ordinary citizens for a problem they have with somthing the administration is proposing.

That seems to reinforce Mr. Epstien's points, doesn't it?  The union members are using a power granted to them during a time of self-created extreme duress to create even more duress.  The purpose of their construct is clearly to put the city in a position where it must capitulate to demands that are  arguably not in the best interest of the city or its citizens - all for the enrichment of a small group.

nyc schoolbus strike

NYC schoolbus drivers and matrons contract will expire this June. Due to the strike there medical benifits will end the January 31st. Since 1979 there has been a empoyees  protection provision (EPP) in all contacts.this clause protects there jobs if there boss should lose his contact with the Board Of Ed. Bloomberg did some fancy and underhanded maneuvering to get the EPP made illegal ( worth your while to see how he did this) which is all local 1181 is stiking for. If the average board of ed contract is 3 years what is the incentive for anybody to become  a NYC schoolbus driver or matron if your job is only secure a long as your bosses contract lasts. Our 3rd term mayor once again had the laws changed to get what he wants, provoke a strike to get rid of the union. In the mean time if he gets his way he will hurt thousands of working families, many he will ruin. Some had there whole working career tied up in this job. They will be left so vulnerable without insurance and there pensions only guaranteed for 12 more years. These are experience people who want to work. It is a disgrace how the mayor treats them and the CHILDREN by manipulating the law.