NEW YORK (AP) — New York City school bus drivers who serve tens of thousands of children were back at work Wednesday after a monthlong strike that forced students, many of them disabled, to take taxis, public transportation or car services to school.
"We're happy to be back," said driver Philip Pan, 57, whose dashboard was adorned with a hand-drawn "Welcome back" card, complete with a picture of a bus.
"We're like a family. We're really close with these kids," said Pan, who's been on the job eight years.
Buses were on their regular schedules Wednesday on all 7,700 routes serving the nation's largest public school system. Five thousand routes had been affected by the strike. The city has about 1.1 million children in public schools.
But the return to work wasn't all good news for some workers and parents.
In Brooklyn, more than 100 unionized bus assistants, known as matrons, were fired Wednesday morning when executives of one bus company told them the business was folding and their jobs were gone. Someone answering the phone at Boro Wide Buses said company president Joseph Fazzia had no comment.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 President Michael Cordiello issued a statement saying the union plans to take "appropriate actions to defend our members."
While bus service to and from schools went smoothly for most, Sadia Awan, 34, said she ended up taking her seventh-grader to school herself because their bus didn't show up.
Her son, Hurrera, has a prosthetic leg. They waited about 90 minutes before giving up.
"I was calling, calling, calling, waiting, waiting, waiting. Nothing," the angry mother said outside Middle School 88 in Brooklyn's Park Slope. "If he's late, the school's going to go after his academics. It's not good for me. It's not good for him."
Awan also said she had struggled with the online reimbursement process to cover her son's taxis during the strike. They cost $20 a day. "That's rent money," she said.