Press Releases

Teamsters Local 533 On Strike Against RTC Washoe Bus Contractor Keolis Transit

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Press Contact: Gary Watson Phone: 775-348-6060 Email: [email protected]

(RENO, Nev.) — After more than a year of unresolved unfair labor practice charges, bad faith bargaining, contract violations and refusal to arbitrate disputes, Teamsters Local 533 members employed by Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) Washoe have begun striking to hold RTC’s for-profit operator, Keolis Corporation, accountable for their employee mistreatment.

“We’ve spent over a year encouraging the contractor for RTC bus system, Keolis Corporation, to act as a fair employer and community investor without success,” said Gary Watson, Teamsters Local 533 President. “Keolis answers to no one. We encourage the community to stand with us in holding them accountable and join the protest against these unfair and unreliable conditions. 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.”

The employees and Teamsters Local 533 members will conduct a picket line strike, protesting a litany of unfair labor practices that are crippling the RTC bus system. A strike sanction for Teamsters 533 was passed unanimously by Teamsters Joint Council 7 and the Northern Nevada Central Labor Council last month.

Keolis Corporation also put RTC employees and Teamsters Local 533 members in direct danger by refusing to implement local, state, and federal mask and social distancing COVID-19 requirements and ordering drivers not to enforce these measures under threat of firing. After violating these safety measures, they also refused to give the union information on the dozens of employees who contracted COVID-19, at least two of whom were admitted to intensive care. Keolis Corporation also employed fewer drivers, cut overtime, and ignored safety measures to enhance their profits. This disgraceful mismanagement has left riders stranded, confused, and upset. As a result, drivers bear the brunt of Keolis’s failures, facing harassment and abuse from angry passengers.

Last year, the Keolis Corporation received over $15 million in government support from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, despite the public transit system already receiving 90 percent of its funding with state and federal taxes—dollars that have empowered Keolis to abuse and neglect its workforce. The RTC is also expected to receive $19 million allocated in the American Rescue Plan, though it is not yet clear if those funds have been received.

“The coach operators, technicians, road supervisors, utility workers, and dispatchers who risked their lives during the pandemic deserve better and cannot take the mismanagement by Keolis any longer,” Watson said. “They are not to blame for Keolis Corporation’s failures, and we will not tolerate Keolis’s do-nothing approach any longer.”

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