71.2 F

Teamsters reject ‘best and final’ offer from Keolis (updated)



The region’s transit workers on Tuesday announced their third strike this year in opposition to alleged unfair labor practices by Keolis North America. Teamsters Local 533 president Gary Watson issued the notice to Keolis at 11 a.m. Watson said drivers would continue to serve routes already in operation at the onset of the strike until they could reach an RTC location to secure the vehicles and safely disembark passengers.

Original Story:

The “best and final” contract offer from Keolis North America was rejected by 89% of Teamsters Local 533 members Monday. The vote affirms what union leader Gary Watson predicted last Thursday: “a strike is imminent.”

“You have proven once again that your voices need to be heard loud and clear and collectively together as one,” Watson told union members in an email following the vote.

If workers strike this week as they’ve threatened, it would be the third strike this year against Keolis, which contracts with the Regional Transportation Commission to operate the region’s bus system. Workers walked off the job in August for 10 days and again in late September for three weeks.

Keolis’ rejected offer included a 12% raise given at 4% per year over the next three years, along with the scheduling and healthcare options union members had demanded.

Watson said the $1,000 bonus offered to employees for signing the contract was akin to a bribe, calling it bogus and “adding insult to injury.”

Teamsters leadership in an op-ed published Monday said the 4% annual raise was below current inflation rates for wage earners—which they said was closer to 5.3% to 6.3%. They’re asking for a 5.67% annual increase over the next three years, for a 17% total increase in pay.

According to the Consumer Price Index for Wages published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which the union cites in its argument for higher pay, wages for “urban wage earners and clerical workers” have increased by nearly 6%. The transportation services sector specifically has seen a slightly lower percentage increase at just over 4%, but that’s still four times what was seen in February 2020 before the pandemic.

Union members argue that pandemic relief funds provided to Keolis are enriching the company’s stockholders and not being used as intended by Congress—to support U.S. workers.

“France-based Keolis has received millions of American taxpayer dollars for pandemic relief– public money intended for employment,” Watson said. “It’s time to appropriately use those dollars for a change.”

Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience working in marketing, public relations and communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. She also serves as director of communications for Nevada Cancer Coalition, a statewide nonprofit. Though she now lives in Atlanta, she is a Nevadan for life and uses her three-hour time advantage to get a jump on the morning’s news.