School bus drivers walk off job in Boston
BOSTON — A surprise strike by Boston school bus drivers stranded thousands of students on Tuesday, forcing some to hitch rides with cops, harried parents and even a police superintendent, while others just stayed home.
Most of the city district's 700 bus drivers suddenly went idle amid a dispute with the contractor that employs them, stranding about 33,000 students, according to district officials.
Drivers picketing outside the bus yards said the company was not honoring the terms of their contract. Schools spokesman Lee McGuire said the walkout was prompted, in part, by the union's opposition to a GPS system that allows parents to track buses online in real time.
An outraged Mayor Tom Menino called the bus drivers “angry people who don't like to follow the rules.” He called the strike illegal and said he would pursue every possible legal avenue to force drivers back to work.
“We will not allow them to use our students as pawns,” he said.
The company that operates the buses, Veolia Transportation Inc., went to court Tuesday afternoon seeking an injunction “to compel workers to go back to work and cease illegal activity.”
In the filing, Veolia asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order ending the strike, saying its contract with the drivers has three no-strike provisions.
Veolia argued the drivers have “harmed the public welfare” by taking away the only ride some children have to school. It said the strikers had “created an emergency of such grave and serious nature as to require issuance forthwith of a temporary restraining order.”
The national office of the United Steelworkers, which represents the drivers, said it did not condone the strike and had instructed them to go back to work as soon as possible.
The city scrambled to find ways to get kids to classes, with police shuttling some to school in cruisers and vans, while those with valid student ID cards were allowed to ride transit buses and subways for free.