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Judge Won’t Intervene In Boston School Bus Driver Strike

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BOSTON (CBS/AP) – A federal judge refused to intervene on Tuesday evening in the dispute involving striking Boston school bus drivers.

The city’s bus contractor, Veolia Transportation, had asked the court to issue a restraining order against the drivers that would effectively prevent them from striking and order them back to work.

An attorney for the United Steelworkers Union told the judge that local and international union representatives had already ordered drivers to go back to work. He said the strike was not sanctioned by the union, so an injunction could not be levied. The union attorney noted that individual drivers are responsible for the strike, not the union as a bargaining entity.

Read: Injunction request (.pdf)

The judge ruled that a restraining order would be inappropriate in this particular situation. It was not known whether the wildcat bus strike, which saw hundreds of school bus drivers walk off the job at the last-minute Tuesday morning, would enter a second day.

Mayor Tom Menino has asked parents to plan alternative transportation for their children again on Wednesday morning. He said all schools will be open an hour earlier to make it easier for parents to drop off their children. The MBTA will be offering free transportation to Boston Public School students. Any child under age 11 must be accompanied on the MBTA by an adult.

“I want to thank the parents,” Mayor Menino said at an evening press conference. “This is extremely frustrating for them and I don’t blame them for being angry. I’m extremely angry. Our young people should not be hurt because of selfish people who only want to cause disruption in our city.”

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong Reports

The mayor said attendance was 82 percent on Tuesday. “This union cannot stop our schools from educating our young people,” Menino said. “The only thing in jeopardy here is their own livelihood.”

After school sports were canceled for Boston Public School students Tuesday afternoon, and parents were told to pick up their children.

“This has been a day that has tested us as a school community,” Superintendent John McDonough said. “Parents truly have been heroes today. Principals, teachers and staff, Boston Police, the Mayor’s Office and so many others have gone above and beyond to help students get to school. The drivers may have staged an illegal action and stopped the buses, but it will not stop the business of teaching and learning in the City of Boston.”

Read: Menino Rips Striking Bus Drivers

WBZ NewsRadio 1030′s Doug Cope reports

“This is illegal,” Menino told reporters at an earlier news conference. “We will not allow them to use our students as pawns.”

School buses parked at the Freeport Street lot in Dorchester. (Photo by Scott Eck - WBZ NewsRadio 1030)

School buses parked at the Freeport Street lot in Dorchester. (Photo by Scott Eck – WBZ NewsRadio 1030)

The drivers are upset with Veolia Transportation, claiming it treats the drivers poorly, doesn’t allow breaks and is not honoring the terms of their contract.

“If we have runs that we cannot complete and we can’t go to the bathroom, then we can’t drive, can we?  It’s inhuman,”  bus driver Oslyn Brument told WBZ-TV.

Veolia general manager Jonathan Sanders said at an afternoon news conference that the company, which took over the system’s bus contract this summer, stands united with the city.

The walkout was prompted, in part, by the union’s opposition to a GPS system that allows parents to track buses online in real time, schools spokesman Lee McGuire said. The workers also oppose changes that administrators say will ensure driver safety and improve on-time performance, McGuire said.

When the drivers and city councilman Charles Yancy tried to meet with Veolia officials Tuesday morning, they were they ordered off the property, the gates were locked and Boston Police were called in to enforce the order.

“They will go back to work immediately if, if Veolia agrees to a discussion,” Yancey said.   “They have demonstrated they have no interest.”

United Steelworkers of America Local 8751 represents about 700 school bus drivers in the city of Boston.

John Shinn, United Steelworkers District 4 Director said Tuesday afternoon what lawyers later noted in court that the union does not condone the strike and that it has ordered its members to get back to work.

“We informed our members this is unauthorized,” he said. “We want to make sure (drivers) are not misled with false information.”

Shinn says the president of Local 8751, Dumond Lewis is informing members they need to get back to work.

“We want to see these kids get back to school,” he added.

The USW is still investigating who led the strike.

“Whoever is leading the charge is misinforming members of their legal rights and I hope they understand the ramifications,” he said.

About 33,000 students are affected by the strike, according to Menino.

Any student who showed a valid student identification was able to ride the train or MBTA for free Tuesday.

A hotline has been set up for parent information at (617) 635-9520. You can also call the mayor’s 24-hour-hotline at (617) 635-4500.

Families can check the location of their school bus at schoolbus.bostonpublicschools.org.

BPS has posted much more information on its website.  You can read it here.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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