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Sunday, January 6, 2013

NYC Bus Drivers Union has history of mob ties

Union bus drivers have been ordered to show up for work Monday, but Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott ripped them for leaving parents of 150,000 kids in limbo with their repeated strike threats.
"They are jerking our kids around. We can't allow that to happen," Walcott told reporters Sunday, moments before Amalgamated Transit Union members rallied next door at City Hall.
The union’s president, Michael Cordiello, told his members to show up for work — but warned them to be ready for a walkout in the next few days.
"A strike is a strong possibility," Cordiello said.
At issue is a union demand that current drivers are guaranteed jobs in new bus contracts issued by the Bloomberg administration.
New York State’s highest court sided with non-union transportation firms in 2011 when it ruled such protection are illegal. But the union contends the ruling only applies to the pre-kindergarten bus contracts that were part of the case.
The city is hoping to cut costs by hiring non-union drivers to transport some special-needs students. Currently, the city spends $1.1 billion each year on buses, a highest-in-the-nation average of $6,900 per student, Walcott said.
The city has not talked with the union since Dec. 21, he added.
Meanwhile, parents are worried.
"I have no other transportation," said Tania St. Louis, whose son Jeremy, 4, takes a yellow bus to Stanley Lamm Preschool in Park Slope.
"If there's no bus he'll have to stay home.
Sara Catalinotto, the co-founder of Parents to Improve School Transportation, said parents will be squeezed.
"People are going to have to come together like they did during the hurricane and help each other out," she said, blaming the dispute on the city for refusing to protect current drivers.
Her son, Kwame Stevens, 10, takes a yellow bus every day to P.S. 206 in East Harlem.
Despite parental support, the union has a shady past.
In 2008, former union President Salvatore "Hot Dogs" Battaglia was sentenced to five years in prison for shaking down bus company owners. Prosecutors said Battaglia was involved with Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello, a former boss of the Genovese crime family.

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