BOSTON (AP) -- School bus drivers unexpectedly went on strike Tuesday morning, stranding thousands of students and leading police officers to give rides to some of them. The mayor said he would pursue every legal avenue, including asking a court for an injunction, to get the drivers back on the job.
About 600 of the 700 drivers who work for the city's bus contractor unexpectedly went on strike Tuesday morning, stranding about 33,000 students.
An outraged Mayor Tom Menino said the strike was illegal.
"We will not allow them to use our students as pawns," he said.
The city scrambled to find ways to get kids to classes, with police shuttling some to school in cruisers and vans, while those with valid student ID cards were allowed to ride transit buses and subways for free.
Menino said he does not expect school buses to roll Tuesday afternoon, but wants drivers back on the job Wednesday.
Superintendent John McDonough said all afternoon activities, including sports, had been canceled.
Union officials picketing outside the bus yards said the vendor, Veolia Transportation Inc., was not honoring the terms of their contract.
The union's voicemail box was full and no one immediately responded to an email seeking comment.
A Veolia representative said at an afternoon news conference that the company, which took over the system's bus contract this summer, stands united with the city.
The walkout was prompted, in part, by the union's opposition to a GPS system that allows parents to track buses online in real time, schools spokesman Lee McGuire said. The workers also oppose changes that administrators say will ensure driver safety and improve on-time performance, McGuire said.
Menino called the bus drivers "angry people who don't like to follow the rules." He said there had been some rumblings about a strike but the city did not know when it would happen.
Both candidates to replace Menino as mayor condemned the strike.
Schools remained open but students who could not make it were allowed an unexcused absence.
Last week, Mylisha Austin landed a job working in a hospital billing office after six months of searching, and she is afraid she'll be fired for taking a day off so soon to care for her third-grader.
"After searching for jobs and so many interviews, here I go calling out," said the 35-year-old mother of six from Roxbury. "It doesn't look good." But, she said, "family comes first."
Rosa Negron, who recently moved from Florida and lives in Boston's Mattapan neighborhood, was planning to put her kids on a school bus to the Channing Elementary school in Hyde Park and attend an education hearing being held in Boston on Tuesday. Because of the strike, she instead brought her two sons, ages 8 and 11, to the Statehouse while a third child stayed with her husband.
She learned of the strike in an early morning phone call from her sister. She was further surprised when she called and was told that there also would be no bus coming back in the afternoon.
"I don't think that's fair for the kids," Negron said. "They need to learn. They had (just) started school and they are already missing school. It's terrible."
Associated Press writers Bob Salsberg and Bridget Murphy contributed to this report.