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Negotiations resume in bus worker strike

By Bob Conrad
Members of Teamsters Local 533 strike on Aug. 3, 2021 against Keolis North America after contract negotiations failed.

Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) officials today announced negotiations between Keolis North America, RTC’s bus contractor, and Teamsters Local 533, will resume Monday.

Teamsters walked off the job for the second time this year on Sept. 27 — nearly three weeks ago.

“It’s been a rough go,” said RTC Commissioner and Reno City Council member Neoma Jardon at today’s commission meeting. “I think as an RTC commissioner…being legally prohibited from participating is the most frustrating thing. We as politicians and elected servants are here to solve problems, and it’s very difficult when you are prohibited from being involved.”

Jardon said she was encouraged by the scheduled negotiations. She thanked the union’s Gary Watson and Keolis’ Mike Ake.

Watson confirmed negotiations are scheduled but also said the strike will continue.

The war of words between Keolis and the Teamsters continues as well, with frequent calls by the union for RTC to “fire Keolis” as RTC’s contractor and for RTC to enforce fines for missed rides.

Public commenters today blasted RTC and Keolis.

“The fact that we are negotiating on television and lying to the public is of deep concern to me right now,” a commenter said. “The claims [Keolis has] made in the public media have been false.”

Chip Evans spoke in agreement.

“I share the growing suspicion in the community that Keolis has a very different agenda than making Reno’s transit system work better,” he said. “This may be about Keolis working to bust another union so they can add Reno to their sales pitch to larger districts with an anti-worker bias. It may be that RTC management and commissioners wanting to burnish their anti-union, anti-worker credentials are encouraging these failures.”

A rally is scheduled for tomorrow at noon in support of the workers and passengers. Protesters are scheduled to gather at the Fourth Street bus station and will march to City Plaza downtown.

RTC Director Bill Thomas announced today that scheduled service changes will not take place.

“We are not bringing any formal route service changes at this time,” he said.

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