Buses were rolling Wednesday morning but not before an unplanned and spontaneous strike by the union representing Boston Public School bus drivers left hundreds of students in Charlestown stranded at bus stops Tuesday morning forcing officers from the Boston Police District 1 station to shuttle kids to school.
District 1’s command kept the midnight shift on in order to have extra officers on hand to help with the shuttling of Charlestown students to various schools throughout the city.
Later in the day officers did the same and also set up makeshift homework centers at the stations for students who could not go right home after school due to afternoon sports and programs being cancelled.
City Councilor Sal LaMattina called for the immediate firing of all 600 bus drivers that took part in Tuesday morning’s strike.
“This is the most irresponsible thing I have ever seen,” said LaMattina. “I’m outraged that hundreds of kids in my neighborhood could not get to school Tuesday morning. I’m sure a lot of these kids that didn’t get a ride to school ended up at home or worse out on the street. All these drivers should be fired because what they did to the families and students with no warning is inexcusable.”
Both mayoral candidates were equally as outraged.
John Connolly, who called the strike and ‘illegal work action’, said “It is shameful for the school bus drivers union to use our children as pawns in a political game. This is about safety first and foremost, and it is totally unacceptable that our children were put at risk this morning, not to mention the impact on thousands of parents who will miss work. Missing even one day of school is a real problem for our children who face a daunting achievement gap.”
Marty Walsh said, “Kids and parents must come first. This is wrong. The bus drivers have put our children in harm’s way. This is an illegal action, causing a huge disruption, and I call on the bus drivers to return to work immediately. This is a violation of the contract and cannot be tolerated.”
United Steelworkers of America Local 8751, which represents approximately 700 school bus drivers in the city of Boston, staged the illegal work action Tuesday morning.
The unauthorized protest appears to be connected to the Union’s ongoing opposition to changes that ensure driver safety and suitability, steps to improve on-time performance, and the new web tool that allows families to track the location of their child’s school bus in real time. The protest involved approximately 600 drivers who refused to operate school buses.
“This action is an unacceptable attempt to shut down our entire school system because the Union is unhappy with efforts to increase safety and improve on-time service,” said BPS Interim Superintendent John McDonough. “By failing to work these drivers are denying children their rides to school and are inconveniencing thousands of families. I want to apologize to all of our families and ask for their patience as we continue to press forward on these needed improvements to safety, on-time performance and parents’ ability to track the location of their child’s school bus.”
During a press conference Tuesday morning Mayor Thomas Menino said “Thirty-three thousand students and their parents have been affected today as a result of this illegal work stoppage by the bus drivers’ union. The bus drivers let me tell you, have a contract. A very good contract. (Tuesday’s) actions are by some angry people who don’t follow the rules. I won’t allow them to jeopardize education or safety.”
By Tuesday afternoon the city sought an injunction from the court to order the drivers to return to work but it was rejected.
However, by Tuesday night drivers agreed to return to work after the union that represents the drivers pulled its support of the strike.
Whether another strike is on the horizon remains unclear.