Statement of Basis and Purpose
During the 2014-15 school year, the Department of Small Business Services (DSBS) administered a grant program to support the employment of experienced school bus workers who were impacted by recent changes in the Department of Education’s (DOE) contracts for school bus transportation. Pursuant to the authority vested in DSBS by New York City Charter § 1301, DSBS is proposing a rule that would continue the grant program for the 2015-16 school year.
For three decades beginning in 1979, following a school bus strike, DOE’s school bus contracts included employee protection provisions (EPPs) requiring school transportation contractors, among other things, to give priority in hiring to employees who became unemployed because of their employers’ loss of DOE bus contract work and to pay such employees the same wages and benefits they had received prior to becoming unemployed.
Following the 2011 decision by the New York State Court of Appeals in L&M Bus Corp., et al., v. the New York City Department of Education, et al., DOE did not include EPPs or similar provisions in solicitations for its school bus contracts, which had included such provisions for over 30 years. After the issuance of the first such post-L&M solicitation, there was a school bus strike in January and February of 2013.
At the end of the 2013-2014 school year, school transportation contracts with 18 vendors providing service on approximately 1,500 routes expired. These contracts were replaced with contracts that did not have EPPs. Faced with the likelihood that the school bus drivers, attendants, mechanics and dispatchers working on the 2013-2014 contracts would become unemployed or would experience significant cuts in wages and benefits, the City enacted local legislation to encourage school bus contractors providing transportation services to DOE to hire those drivers, attendants, mechanics and dispatchers who had been working in the 2013-2014 school year and to maintain the level of wages and benefits those employees had been receiving. The grant program established by this legislation, Local Law 44 of 2014, supported the employment of approximately 1200 school bus workers. This program accomplished the important purpose of ensuring employment stability for these workers and continued, efficient service in the 2014-15 school year.
This grant program had been established as an interim solution. During the legislative session that ended two months ago, the City sought a change to state law that would have provided a long-term solution to potential labor disruption and worker instability, as well as other problems arising out of recent events surrounding the school bus contracts. Unfortunately, the state legislature did not enact the amendments that the City sought. Therefore, the City needs to take steps once again this year to ensure stability for these drivers and attendants, mechanics and dispatchers who face the loss of their jobs or cuts in their wages and benefits. Modeled on Local Law 44 of 2014, this proposed rule would continue the grant program that had been established last year.
The continuation of this grant program for the 2015-2016 school year serves the same important purposes that the City had identified last year: securing efficient and reliable bus service for the City’s school children and avoiding layoffs and wage and benefit cuts to the drivers and attendants operating the City’s school buses. In view of the state legislature’s failure to enact amendments, the problems that the grant program addressed last year are of equal significance and urgency this year. This rule will enable DSBS to continue to administer the grant program, and in this way, help secure reliable school bus transportation and labor stability by exercising the power and duty of the Commissioner of Small Business Services under the City Charter to disburse funds for employment programs in the City.