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Queens Village bus drivers protest after racial epithet allegedly used

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A group of Queens Village bus drivers delayed service last Thursday morning when they refused to take the wheel after a co-worker allegedly used a racial slur on the job, according to a city councilman.

About 100 outraged drivers blocked the exit of the depot, according to City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) after a dispatcher who used the N-word was allowed to continue directing buses. Union officials put the number of drivers who refused to drive their buses, however, at only two or three.

The dispatcher allegedly had used the epithet the day before, when he argued with a driver about skipping several stops, according to city officials.

But the two-hour-long standoff did not occur until last Thursday morning, when the dispatcher was allowed back at his post.

“They refused to take [the dispatcher] off the job and made no attempt to address the issue,” said Daneek Miller, president of Amalgamated Transit Union 1056.

The buses began flowing again around 11 a.m., according to Miller, when several members of the state Assembly and City Council — Comrie, state Assemblywoman Clark (D-Queens Village), Assemblyman Scarborough (D-St. Albans) and Councilman-elect Ruben Wills — all arrived to help negotiate a solution.

By refusing to board their buses, the drivers voiced their dissatisfaction with the alleged comment, Comrie said. But officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Association pointed out in a statement that the drivers who belong to a municipal union also violated a state law called the Taylor Law.

“[The union president] was urging bus operators to neglect their duties and not take their buses out,” the statement said.

The Taylor Law prohibits union-represented employees from stopping government services such as public buses and up to 24 drivers could lose their jobs if the city decides to prosecute them — a decision the union and Comrie condemned.

“We are admonishing the MTA not to do that,” Comrie said.

But two actions the city did take was to move the dispatcher to another post and to putthe driver under disciplinary review for skipping several the stops.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 6:27 pm, October 10, 2011
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