Submitted by Richard Birdsong
The recent news coverage of the press release of Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) Executive Director Bill Thomas was a new low for the already disgraced RTC.
As a soon to retire Bus Driver I must say that in all the years I’ve worked at RIDE I’ve never seen such a one-sided and distorted message come out of the RTC. I used to think that the RTC was in control of the France-based, for-profit management company known as Keolis (they changed their name after World War II and their affiliation with the Nazis and Vichy France), but I now see that Keolis is in charge not only at RTC but also at the Washoe Board.
Perhaps out of fear of what would surely be another outpouring of Keolis employees–currently on strike–at the next board meeting, scheduled for Nov. 17, Thomas has cancelled the meeting. Anyone who has seen the last few board meetings knows that the overwhelming public comments from the general public have been supportive of the striking employees and have been a litany of the abuses suffered by the employees and the bus riding public since Keolis took over the operation of our once-excellent transit system.
I had been a road supervisor for many years when Keolis took over, and within six months I saw the way Keolis had destroyed aspects of operations. At my request, I moved to being a bus driver again taking the resulting cut in pay happily.
When I moved down less than two years ago, I became number 179 on the drivers seniority list and another road supervisor that moved down was number 180. I’m not certain how many drivers we have now, but I hear it’s less than a hundred.
When we were not on strike there were more cancelled trips than I’ve ever seen. It was all due to the mismanagement of Keolis and the low pay and abuse suffered by drivers causing the most experienced drivers to either retire or just move on to other employment. It’s also due to the fact that Keolis is hiring any warm body to fill driver seats, giving them the minimal amount of training and sending them out on the road. This has resulted in myriad operations issues, not to mention a safety climate that has steadily worsened.
And through all the COVID-19 worry of the last couple years (including the deaths of multiple drivers from COVID-19) the Reno drivers came to work, wore their masks, cleaned their buses when needed, and got riders to their jobs on time and then home again.
The drivers, dispatchers, road supervisors and maintenance workers of your RIDE Transit System deserve not only a decent wage but a little respect from RTC and Keolis. Not only should Keolis be fired, but Bill Thomas has shown by his obvious display of a one-sided Pro-Keolis stance that his reign a RTC should end.
Richard Birdsong is a RTC RIDE driver and Teamster.
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