As a Bus Strike Looms – How Should the UFT Respond?

On August 28th 2023, Chancellor David Banks emailed tens of thousands of vacationing UFT members about “potential disruptions” to school bus service at the beginning of the coming school year. The potential disruptions stem from a possible strike from the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 against the bus companies that employ them. Chancellor Banks touts contingency plans being prepared by NYC Public Schools to minimize disruptions, without offering specifics or outlining expectations for unionized staff including members of the UFT, CSA, and DC37. We also have not yet heard from the UFT regarding how we plan to respond to a striking union within our school system. 

While we are currently dealing in the hypothetical, why have we not heard from the major unions involved? What are our responsibilities to a striking union as members of unions ourselves? We must be careful not to veer into the territory of crossing a picket line when a strike impacts our own work sites. Recently, the United Teachers of Los Angeles struck in solidarity with the Local 99 chapter of the Service Employees International Union. In fairness, this is not entirely analogous to our situation. New York State’s Taylor Law is incredibly punitive towards striking public sector unions. ATU Local 1181 is not a public sector union, nor is it as directly connected as the Los Angeles unions. Yet, that does not mean we have no responsibilities to our bus drivers. We know how hard they work and the importance of their labor in safely transporting our students, often through difficult streets and before the sun rises, for little compensation. Their grievances are real and they deserve our solidarity. 

So how cooperative should unionized staff be, and how can we stand in solidarity with ATU Local 1181 while respecting our contractual duties and maintaining the safety of our students? Where is the line between our duties as educators and our duties as unionists?

This summer, we witnessed members of both the AFT and UFT join the picket lines in solidarity with SAG-AFTRA and the WGA. Solidarity is a hallmark of the American labor movement and something all unions rely on when they are forced by the employer to undergo a strike. We have shown solidarity with SAG-AFTRA and the WGA, as we should. But those strikes are easy for us to support, as they don’t directly impact our own labor. How can we show solidarity with ATU Local 1181 should they require it of us? What are the plans, and how can we act should there be a bus driver strike this school year? We remain hopeful that we will hear from the concerned unions soon. 

UFT leadership, we’re waiting.

-Submitted by a concerned New Action member

1 Comment

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    Well, we still haven’t even brought up to vote, a resolution from last year’s many Delegate Assemblies, that reasserted the rights of unions. What would make anyone think the UFT Leadership be proactive in any way, shape or form about worker’s rights or students rights? Nepotism now, Nepotism forever!!!!!

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