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Queens bus drivers

By Amy Muldoon | March 8, 2002 | Page 11

NEW YORK--Bus drivers in Queens struck for two days last week to pressure the city and private bus lines to settle after 14 months without a contract.

The drivers are members of Transit Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 and work for three companies--Queens Surface Corp., Jamaica Buses and the Triboro Coach Corp.--whose franchises with the city will expire in 23 months.

The mayor's office would like to put the franchises up for open bidding--with no guarantee that current employees will keep their jobs. "It's not about money--it's about security," Chuck Petrone, the drivers' chairperson of Local 100, told Socialist Worker. "Most of our concern is protection," said one driver with four years on the job. "The guys here have mortgages, have kids, and we just need job security."

While bargaining brought no progress, some city officials voiced support for the drivers.

This strike follows a five-hour wildcat strike January 7. "We were frustrated--we've been so long [without a contract]," explained a driver. "Before the holiday season, we had been pressuring them to settle."

"We knew it was a new administration coming in, and we kept giving them time," he continued. "But offers that used to be on the table were gone, so instead of getting better, it was getting worse. We got to the point where we said we've got to take some kind of action to show that we're serious about our demands."

The stakes are high--if the local loses this fight over job protection, the companies could fire every driver and bust the union.

But not all drivers were satisfied with the limited walkouts. When Local President Roger Toussaint visited picket lines, discussion of the strike turned into a debate about whether an extended walkout could win.

The sentiment among many drivers was that they should stay out until victory. In fact, many drivers have struck repeatedly--and successfully--in the past.

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