A strike by 600 school bus drivers entered its second day Friday with no contract talks scheduled, and parents were forced to turn to car pools, city buses or taxis to get their children to classes.
The strike left 26,000 students scrambling to find ways to get to school, and attendance was off sharply for the second day, officials said. Many parents said they would keep their youngsters home until the strike ends.
The drivers are seeking improved benefits and more frequent safety inspection of buses, union steward Susan Moir said. "We're prepared to stay out as long as necessary to get a fair contract for our members," she said.
In Boston's rough Roxbury neighborhood, Gloria Lewis said she kept her 16-year-old daughter home for the girl's safety.
"I'm not letting her take public transportation into South Boston," Lewis said. "Even if I did have a car, I probably wouldn't feel safe driving her in. I hope they (the drivers) think about that while they're out there marching around."
Four-Bus Trip to School
Fifth-grader Derek Wright said he could not go to school because his mother did not want him to take the four public buses that would be necessary to get him there.
Patricia Mays of Dorchester said the strike is "hell on working people."
Edgar Garcia had to take off an hour from work in the morning and an hour in the afternoon to take his fourth-grade daughter to school. He said: "If this continues, I don't know what I'll do."
Supt. Laval S. Wilson said that 32,000 students, or 57% of the enrollment, attended classes.
Union leaders want 100% of their health insurance costs paid, a pension plan and 15-minute safety checks of buses each midday.
Cites Additional Costs
Wilson, who has vowed to keep schools open, said meeting the drivers' demands would cost $1.7 million in addition to the $14 million allocated for bus contracts.
Wilson said that he was convinced that most union members do not support the leadership, and he challenged the union to conduct secret balloting to determine whether drivers would approve a contract without provisions for pensions, medical benefits and the bus safety checks.
Jim Thompson, vice president of the United Steelworkers of America Local 8751, which represents the drivers, countered by challenging Wilson to allow reporters to attend contract negotiations.