School bus drivers in Nassau County have joined a strike, leaving thousands of students in four public school districts without a ride to and from school this week. The strike is a union attempt to negotiate higher wages, more sick days, a guaranteed five-day work week and better company contributions to 401K programs. As parties prep for a negotiating session tonight, a Cornell labor expert says school bus drivers have a tough road ahead.
Lee Adler, an expert on employment and workers’ rights law at Cornell University’s ILR School, says that the district’s decision to outsource services – such as transportation – to private operators is at the heart of this problem.
“We learned from the school bus drivers’ strike in 2011 or 2012 that these are some of the toughest strikes to win.
“Beside the realistic worries and thus the generally tepid support that emanates from otherwise sympathetic parents, we see that the school district has outsourced to a private company its responsibility to arrange for the safe transportation of their children. This complicates the problem because now not only do the drivers have to ensure earning a livable wage in one of America’s most expensive places to live, but a private operator has to make a profit.
“The difficulty here might indeed be the configuration that the school districts have chosen to fulfill their duties to the children and the families of their districts. Otherwise, those of us who follow these matters mostly believe that there are sufficient funds in these districts to solve such a critical problem.”