SEPTEMBER 2002

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Nine School Bus Workers Are Fired
From Hoy
23 August2002

By José L. Llanes

Rosa López’s 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 didn’t 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 didn’t 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 couldn’t 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 isn’t like I wanted the time for the fun of it," said López, who added that she doesn’t 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 Hoy’s calls.

 

Translated from Spanish by Erica Pearson

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