Drivers for the Oceanside-based Baumann Bus Company went on strike Monday morning, which meant thousands of students in the Baldwin, Freeport, Hicksville and Rockville Centre school districts had to get themselves to school.
The drivers’ union, Transportation Workers Local 252, had been in heated talks over the past week, with no resolution. Union officials said Monday that the union and company were far apart in their negotiations. A federal mediation session was set for Nov. 10. Drivers were seen outside the Baumann company on Lawson Boulevard, protesting with an oversized inflatable rat out front.
"They’re losing pay fighting to get a better contract," Debra Hagan, president for TW Local 252, said of the bus drivers and assistants at the rally on Monday morning. "We recognize that it’s an inconvenience, that parents need to get their children to school so that they can get to work and provide a living for their family. But we need to get this settled. It can’t keep dragging out where our members are in limbo without a contract and the benefits that they need.”
Word of the strike was posted on the Baldwin, Freeport and Rockville Centre school districts’ websites on Sunday evening. In addition to these South Shore districts, the strike was also expected to affect Chaminade, De La Salle, Kellenberg, Sacred Heart and St. Agnes schools, as well as Freeport Christian Academy.
Parents and guardians were asked to make alternative transportation arrangements.
“We advise parents to continue checking the district website and district social media pages for the most up-to-date information,” noted Baldwin school officials on the district’s website.
Freeport planned to open the high school at 6 a.m., Dodd Middle School at 6:30 a.m. and the elementary schools at 7 a.m., according to the district website.
Rockville Centre officials said that parents would receive a robo-call with confirmation of the strike before 7 a.m.
Bus drivers and matrons at the strike on Monday called for "guaranteed weeks" — to ensure consistent five-day paychecks — to be included in the contract, which Hagan said other bus companies offer to their workers.
“We carry the most precious cargo — children," Blaine Witherspoon, a bus driver for Hicksville students, told the Herald. "We love our children and we’re not asking for nothing crazy. We just want to see a contract like everybody else has.”
More as this story develops.