School Bus Workers Are Fired
By José L. Llanes
Rosa Lópezs sadness overcomes her rage. That is why
the Puerto Rican woman cried three times during our interview.
López belongs to a group of nine yellow school bus drivers
and bus aides, all women, who were suddenly fired by Third Ave.
Transit, supposedly for refusing to work during the summer. Six
of them are Hispanic. Two are single moms.
"Do you know what hurts the most about all this? I prided
myself on being responsible, because I could not have the luxury
of losing my job, I have four children. I never knew that working
during the summer was obligatory," said the now-unemployed
Puerto Rican bus driver.
The story of the hardships suffered by López, Dominican
Ruth Liriardo, Ecuadorian Martina Cruz and their six colleagues
began with the arrival of summer 2002.
Usually, at the beginning of June, Third Ave. Transit executives
hold an annual meeting to sign up workers for the summer months,
when students are on vacation.
"I didnt go. I have been an bus aide for nine years
and I never worked during the summers because it was not mandatory.
Besides, I have two sons, one and seven years old," said the
Ecuadorian Martina Cruz.
The option was to collect a half salary during two months, plus
vacation pay, until September.
"But this time there was no option, but we didnt know
this beforehand," said the driver López.
"On June 26 we were scheduled to pick up our checks, but instead
the company supervisor Edwing Lebrón and a representative
from the Union of Commercial and Industrial Workers, Local 91 gave
us a letter saying that we had refused to work," said Liriardo.
"I told them that I would not sign the letter, and that I
was not refusing to work," said López. "But instead
the union representative signed for me, and for all the others."
On July 5 the workers picked up their last check, and were told
that they had been fired for refusing to work.
Martina Cruz also denounced the poor job done by the Union of Commercial
and Industrial Workers, Local 91. "They told us that we couldnt
get benefits, or unemployment funds, or anything. We have gone years
without a union meeting. They (the representatives) signed the contracts
without our permission and the union leader at the company did not
represent us," said Cruz.
"What we want is help, or at least an explanation of this
injustice," said López, still full of emotion. "I
have so much pressure and I need to be with my children during the
summer, it isnt like I wanted the time for the fun of it,"
said López, who added that she doesnt know how she
will pay her bills next month.
Representatives from the Union of Commercial and Industrial Workers,
Local 91 did not wish to comment on this case, and Third Ave. Transit
executive Angelo Faccia did not return Hoys calls.
Translated from Spanish by Erica Pearson