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Bus strike enters second day, RTC says union refusing to negotiate “in good faith”

By Bob Conrad

Transit workers are on strike for the second day, and Washoe County’s Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) is providing limited services. Most routes are canceled. 

Details about today’s contingency bus operations by RTC were scant. A statement sent by RTC said details would be updated today by Keolis North America, RTC’s bus contractor. A Keolis representative, however, referred This Is Reno back to RTC’s statement from last night.

“Transit customers are urged to make alternative transportation plans during this disruption of service,” RTC’s website noted this morning. “RTC ACCESS drivers who are driving their routes are picking up customers who may be waiting at bus stops. 

“RTC FlexRIDE service will also be used to service some routes, along with services coordinated with Whittlesea Taxi and Reno Sparks Cab Company to help transport transit customers to their destinations.”

Routes in service will be free of charge and transit passes will be given extensions, according to RTC’s website.

RTC chides workers

RTC spokesperson Michael Moreno issued a statement that said the union, Teamsters Local 533, was not negotiating in good faith.

“RTC is extremely disappointed with Teamsters’ decision to strike. RTC expected both Keolis and Teamsters to negotiate in good faith,” Moreno said. “RTC is satisfied that Keolis has been attempting to negotiate in good faith, but does not believe the same can be said about Teamsters. 

“Teamsters has been threatening to strike during Hot August Nights since at least May of this year, before even sitting down at the bargaining table with Keolis,” he added. “Teamsters agreed to sit down for a single one hour meeting at the beginning of June, and then refused to sit down for another meeting until just last week. On Monday, July 26, Keolis also proposed additional meetings but all dates were rejected by the Teamsters.”

Gary Watson
Teamsters Local 533 representative Gary Watson

Teamsters rep Gary Watson said Keolis tried to pull health benefits from employees, which prompted the strike.

“At the latest bargaining session last week, Keolis made a proposal to eliminate Teamsters health insurance with 60 days’ notice. We told Keolis the proposal is a poison pill and violates the Health and Welfare Trust Agreement. Keolis refuses to withdraw this language,” Watson said.

RTC officials, according to Moreno, are prohibited from being a part of negotiations.

“RTC and its Board are not a party to the negotiations and are legally prohibited from participating,” Moreno said. “RTC expects that the parties will only be able to reach a reasonable and satisfactory agreement by sitting down at the bargaining table to negotiate reasonably and in good faith.”

A similar issue arose earlier this year in Virginia where transit workers had harsh words for the France-based Keolis, which operates throughout the U.S. 

“I mean, imagine being such a sh—y employer that you antagonize your people until they would vote to authorize a strike before they even start,” a worker said before the company took over bus operations in Loudoun County, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.

But the long-threatened strike against the company here in the Truckee Meadows became reality yesterday. About 200 workers walked off the job.

“We want this company to stop lying to the public, the media and the RTC,” Watson added. “They’re trying to eliminate 97% of [the collective bargaining agreement]. I don’t know when this is going to end. It’s unfortunate for the passengers. These passengers need to point the blame at RTC for hiring a contractor that is failing the system.”

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