2007_12_accessaride.jpgAfter drivers of Access-a-Ride vehicles went on strike yesterday, a federal mediator will step in and attempt to help negotiations along. The drivers have been unhappy with a tentative contract that put more of the burden of health care on them, which then makes a pay raise less substantial.

The strike affects about 40% of the Access-a-Ride drivers; there are about 20,500 people who use the service. MTA, which uses Access-A-Ride but is not part of negotiations, has been offering riders other options, like private ambulettes, as ways to get around.

Still, about 1,500 drivers have gone on strike, and the passengers who rely on them, many of them disabled, sick or elderly, have had to make adjustments with their commutes. One wheelchair-bound person, Marty Sesmer, told the NY Times, “It’s hard to roll the wheelchair into the bus, and once you get it inside, the wheelchair rolls over people’s feet because the bus is too crowded in the morning. I had my home-health attendant accompany me, but it was hard for me, hard for her, and over all, a huge inconvenience for everybody who didn’t have their usual van ride.”

Talks will begin at 10AM.