Bus strike enters second day, RTC says union refuses to negotiate “in good faith”
Transit workers are on strike for the second day and the Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) is providing limited services. Most of the routes are canceled.
Details of today’s emergency bus operations by RTC were scarce. A statement sent by RTC said details would be updated today by Keolis North America, RTC’s bus contractor. A representative for Keolis, however, referred This Is Reno to RTC’s statement last night.
“Transit customers are urged to make alternative transportation plans during this service disruption,” the RTC website noted this morning. âRTC ACCESS drivers who make their trips pick up customers who can wait at bus stops.
âThe RTC FlexRIDE service will also be used to serve certain routes, as well as coordinated services with Whittlesea Taxi and Reno Sparks Cab Company to help transport transit customers to their destinations.â
Routes in service will be free and transit passes will be extended, according to the RTC website.
RTC spokesperson Michael Moreno released a statement that the union, Teamsters Local 533, was not negotiating in good faith.
âThe RTC is extremely disappointed with the Teamsters’ decision to strike. The RTC expected Keolis and Teamsters to negotiate in good faith, âsaid Moreno. âRTC is happy that Keolis tried to negotiate in good faith, but don’t think the same can be said of the Teamsters.
“The Teamsters have been threatening to strike during the Hot August Nights since at least May of this year, even before they sit down at the negotiating table with Keolis,” he added. âThe Teamsters agreed to sit for a single one-hour meeting in early June, then declined to sit for another meeting until last week. Monday July 26, Keolis also offered additional dates but all dates were rejected by the Teamsters.
Teamsters representative Gary Watson said Keolis tried to take away employee health benefits, which sparked the strike.
âAt the last bargaining session last week, Keolis proposed to end the Teamsters’ health insurance with 60 days notice. We told Keolis that the proposal is a poison pill and violates the Health and Welfare Trust Agreement. Keolis refuses to withdraw this language, âWatson said.
According to Moreno, RTC officials do not have the right to participate in the negotiations.
âRTC and its board of directors are not parties to the negotiations and are legally prohibited from participating in them,â Moreno said. âThe RTC expects the parties to come to a reasonable and satisfactory agreement only by sitting at the negotiating table to negotiate reasonably and in good faith.
A similar problem arose earlier this year in Virginia, where transit workers had harsh words for French company Keolis, which operates throughout the United States.
âI mean imagine being such a shy employer that you upset your people until they vote to authorize a strike before you even start,â a worker said outside the company took over bus operations in Loudoun County, Virginia, near Washington, DC
But the long-threatened strike against the company here in Truckee Meadows became reality yesterday. About 200 workers left work.
âWe want this company to stop lying to the public, to the media and to the RTC,â added Watson. âThey are trying to eliminate 97% of [the collective bargaining agreement]. I don’t know when this will end. It’s a shame for the passengers. These passengers are to blame the RTC for hiring a contractor who brings down the system. “
Bob Conrad is editor, publisher and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has held communications positions for various state agencies and received a PhD from the University of Nevada at Reno in 2011, where he completed a thesis on social media, journalism, and crisis communication. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time research position for the extension office at Mineral County University of Nevada.