Green Bus May Go Out On Strike January 3
By Miriam Rosenberg
After voting to authorize a strike on December 20 and going out on a wildcat strike on December 22 and 23, the union that represents drivers and other workers may force Green Bus Line riders to once again face a disruption in service on January 3 when – according to a driver who asked not to be named – the drivers at the bus line could go out on strike. The source told The Wave that, unlike the wildcat strike earlier this month, the union would sanction the new strike.
After two years working without a contract and without knowing if and when the MTA would take over the private subsidized bus companies serving New York City (including Green Bus Lines, Jamaica Bus and Triboro Coach), the situation hit a boiling point the week of December 19. At that time, members of Amalgamated Transit Union Locals 1179 (representing Green Bus Lines) and 1181 (representing Command Bus Company) voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.
Almost 200 drivers at Command staged a sickout on December 21 to December 23. On December 22, Green Bus mechanics began reporting massive problems with the buses. By mid-day, the entire Green Bus fleet was off the road. The following day, all of the Green Bus line was again kept off the road due to “mechanical problems.”
“We have families, and all we’re asking for are our pension and welfare benefits to stay intact when the MTA takes us over. That’s all,” Salvatore Battaglia, president and business agent for Local 1181, told television reporters Monday evening.
Jamie Van Bramer of the Transit Alliance – of which Green Bus, Command Bus, Jamaica Bus and Triboro Coach are part – commented on the situation during this month’s work slowdown.
“We share their frustration. We’re frustrated with the city, but we’re disappointed it had to come to this,” said Van Bramer. “It didn’t provide us any opportunity to notify riders.”
Jordan Barowitz, of the mayor’s office, said the city held an emergency meeting with the union following the strike vote. “We met last night [December 21] and stand ready to [meet anytime]... to urge them not to strike, not to inconvenience riders in Brooklyn and Queens this holiday season,” Barowitz told The Wave.
Tom DeMarinis, the secretary of Local 1179, stated the union’s position.
“Our problems are medical,” DeMarinis said. “Prices are going through the roof. We met with the OLR (Office of Labor Relations) [December 21]. Nothing came out of it. We owe GHI a lot of money. They tell us to hold tight until the takeover. They don’t want to give us a contract or help us with the medical. We would like to have additional meetings. We were willing to stay all night [Tuesday], but when it is just cut and dry then it’s time to go.”
Workers and riders have a lot at stake. Jamar Hayes, who drives the Green Bus Q22 in Rockaway, spoke with The Wave. “[We’re] going out for a cause,” said Hayes. “If we don’t fight for what we want and we settle for less... they’re trying to take over and throw us anything. Now we pay $10 toward our benefits. Now they want $50 out of our check. What do MTA [workers] pay.”
He explained that any job action is against the city, not the riders. “People feel their jobs are threatened,” Hayes continued.
Hayes admitted that a strike would be a hindrance to thousands of riders, Delores Bailey of Beach 54 Street among them.
“I would have to take the train around Brooklyn to get to Jamaica,” said Bailey, a regular Q22 rider.
She said an alternative route would add almost 25 minutes to her trip. As an asthmatic, the extra walking involved could be a problem.
Councilman James Sanders Jr., a member of the Transportation Committee, talked about the buses.
“Sadly this is the results of the MTA’s incompetence where, if you had two years to prepare and this is the best we can do, we have to look at the masterminds at the MTA,” Sanders said. “I call upon all parties to move back from the edge, [listen] to the voice of reason. My constituents are hurting big time and can’t get to work or school.”
The new deadline for the MTA to takeover Green Bus, Jamaica Bus, Triboro Coach and Command Bus is April 30.