Driving Home a Point

When the union representing school bus drivers demanded unreasonable and, frankly, irrational job guarantees as part of a revamping of routes, the Bloomberg administration told union leaders where to get off.

The union went on strike. City Hall held firm. And now, after ordering workers to stand on picket lines in the dead of winter while children with special needs were deprived of their rides to school, the union has caved. The strike is over. City Hall gave not an inch.

So far, so good. But this victory for common sense may be temporary, at least if the union has its way. Union leader Michael Cordiello announced that “this fight is far from over.” The union apparently believes that Mr. Bloomberg’s successor, whoever he or she may be, will be more amenable to the notion of job guarantees. City taxpayers should be worried.

The city spends nearly a billion dollars a year transporting students to school. Mr. Bloomberg, who has managed to maintain relative peace with public employee unions, chose to make a stand on this issue because he envisioned transportation costs continuing to soar to unacceptable levels in the near future.

Job protections for senior drivers began nearly 30 years ago in the aftermath of a ruinous three-month strike. Since then, private bus companies have been required to hire drivers based on seniority when they won bids for new routes. When the companies filed suit to stop the practice, the city contended that a court decision meant that it did not have to recognize the system in contracts with the companies.

Eight thousand drivers were on strike for a month, with nothing to show for it except the fond hope that the next mayor will take a step backward. They have reason to harbor such hopes—in fact, all five Democratic mayoral candidates signed a letter promising to “revisit” the issue of job protection if they are elected.

The next few months very likely will bring all kinds of pandering and demagoguery on the mayoral campaign trail as candidates trip over themselves to win the affections of public employee unions hoping for a return to the days of wine and roses.

The candidate who has the temerity to speak the truth to union power will perform a valuable public service for New York’s burdened taxpayers. It will be interesting to see who has the courage and leadership skills to deliver a message of restraint and realism.