TEAMSTERS LOCAL 533
NORTHERN NEVADA/NORTHEASTERN CALIFORNIA
"Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?" Chico Marx disguised as Groucho Marx in "Duck Soup" (1933)
Stifling incentive while endangering everyone: Bulletins to drivers from management 12-17-2020
"We are not allowed to enforce masks, nor can we bring our own sanitizer. These messages were sent by management to the buses today. We have to let them ride maskless and cannot clean up. Management has given no supplies so we are stuck."
While the deadly comedy of errors continues at today's Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County meeting, here are accurate reports from drivers on the front lines. Despite continuing retaliation by management, these signed comments have been submitted by drivers to the commission for its 12-18-2020 meeting. Mr. Locke refers to a transit system management response demanded last week by Reno Mayor HIllary Schieve.
Dear Board Members:
I am a driver for the RIDE bus system here in the great City of Reno. The letter that (RTC Executive Director) Mr. Thomas has sent to the elected officials of Reno is misleading. I personally can tell you that Keolis is not doing all they can do to protect its drivers or customers. Yes, they wipe the buses down during the day but they only wipe each bus 2 times a day, once in the morning, and that is from about 6 am to about 10am roughly, and then again at about 1 pm to about 4pm. Nothing at night and that just is not enough to keep people safe.
As for masks and/or face coverings, we are still not allowed to enforce that at all. We have been told we can be fired if we refuse service to anyone at all. So just to say that Keolis is doing everything they can is a lie from the get-go and to say they have extra buses out there for when they get packed is another lie. They have the people, they just don't use them. There are so many of us that are afraid to even come to work and if we get tested and show up positive, they only give 22 hours of extra pay and that's after we have used all over our sick, vacation and floating holiday pay and that is wrong as well.
They are doing the least amount to protect drivers or customers and Mr. Hassan sits in an office all day and has no clue what is going on with the buses or drivers. In my opinion, he is looking to save money and not care about what is going on with drivers or customers and in an interview, he downright blamed drivers for bringing the Covid 19 to work from their families. That is a very low way to go.
John Locke (driver)
Re: RTC/Keolis drivers and COVID/ OSHA concerns
To whom it may concern;
I am a driver in Reno for RTC/Keolis. It is becoming very concerning that our general manager is lying to the public and to public officials. I have kept a tally everyday on my bus, on the back of my daily report, on how many people ride my bus for each trip and how many are non-mask compliant at the fare box. I also hit the camera as supporting evidence every time I have to ask to put on a mask. I average 15% non compliance every day. Enclosed are 2 images sent to all the drivers on their policy.
We are told we are not allowed to enforce people to wear masks. Now we are being told that we cannot spray our area with disinfectants to protect ourself. Also enclosed are pictures of the barriers they gave us. One is the shower curtain that we can't see through, because of wear and tear and the chemicals used to disinfect it at the end of the day. Drivers get fed up with them and the last bus I drove, had it torn down and stuffed behind the seat and I could not put it back up because they ripped it down. Couldn't ask for a bus switch out because there were no buses available. The other barrier is a pull down shade which would be great if it went all the way down but there is a 1/2- inch gap, above the farebox, that I'm exposed to a passenger less then a foot from me.
I am immuno-compromised as I have thyroid cancer and Ehrlos Danlers Syndrome. I have no options not to work or any options to protect myself besides washing my hands every hour and wearing my mask. We have had many drivers that got Covid. Our GM has publicly stated that none of them got it from work and (it) was traced back to their families. But we all talk at our work and many, many, many drivers all say they don't know who they got it from, no one in thier family had it, and they don't go anywhere but home and work and an occasional grocery run.
There is a total disconnect and breakdown of communication which is made worse by the lies of our GM and indifference to how valuable drivers lives are. I'm sure we have a minimum 30% or more drivers who are high risk for Covid and probably 50% or more who live with someone who is.
Please help us and get Keolis/ RTC to protect us. In many other areas of the country (even the same company) are doing free rides to reduce time at the farebox. The biggest help would be refusing rides to people not wearing a mask.
We are fortunate we haven't had a death yet but 2 of our drivers were in the ICU with very grave experiences.
Thank you for your time.
Letter from Teamsters Local 533 President Gary Watson to Keolis Transit RTC Washoe Manager Abul Hassan
18 December 2020
I have been provided with a message you put out yesterday at 4:13pm regarding employees bringing in personal cleaning supply items to sanitize their work areas on the buses. While I applaud you on one hand for finally taking the initiative of purchasing disinfecting supplies for your employees 10 months into the pandemic, I find it concerning for your employees that they cannot still use their own purchased supplies to disinfect their work spaces while the company is working on supplies for you to use.
The Union wants our members (and the riding public) to be safe and healthy while performing an essential service to this community all the while making Keolis a handsome yearly profit. We hope you will take their safety and health seriously and consider allowing your employees the continued use of their own supplies until you can properly provide your employees with disinfecting products.
Please provide the Union with a date by end of business today as to when Keolis will be providing disinfecting supplies to its employees and where the employees may pick up and replenish disinfecting supplies throughout their shifts.
The information is relevant to the Union and its members so that we can properly communicate with them regarding their health and safety concerns while in the employ of Keolis, along with the employees making sure their work space is properly disinfected so the riding public has safe and healthy travels.
GARY WATSON, President
Teamsters Union Local 533
"We just come to work here, we don't come to die." Union longshoreman and labor songwriter Harry Stamper
TWO DOZEN BUS DRIVERS GET COVID-19
Transitions and decisions in a darkening winter
Superspreader meeting Dec. 18
BARBWIRE BY ANDREW BARBANO
Expanded from the 12-16-2020 Sparks Tribune / Updated 12-18-2020 GMT
Bus boss oblivious: Neoma Jardon in denial
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT
GARY WATSON, President
Teamsters Union Local 533
(775) 348-6060 ext. 104
RENO, Nev. (12-7-2020) Reno City Councilmember Neoma Jardon has gotten divorced from reality.
At last Wednesday's council meeting, Jardon, who chairs the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County, asserted that the local transit system, for which she is responsible, forces passengers and drivers to wear masks.
Perhaps Keolis' base motivation is the most obvious: Do anything that keeps ridership up, which protects their contracts. This is on point:
Public Transit Faces Big Cuts and Little Help
The New York Times front page 12-7-2020
If that's not the case, thats a problem for me, responded Councilmember Devon Reese.
"Has Chair Jardon ever boarded a bus? Nothing could be further from the truth," stated Teamsters Local 533 President Gary Watson.
"Our transit system has created an epidemic of denial during a deadly pandemic," Watson asserted.
"More than two dozen drivers plus some support workers have contracted COVID-19. Social distancing is a thing of the past. Some buses pack passengers like sardines at peak hours but the foreign-owned management contractor will not dispatch additional vehicles to relieve overcrowding.
"Everyone else is running at 25 percent capacity. Why not the transit system? With masks. This has to stop," the longtime union leader demanded.
"Transit authorities still refuse to provide accurate information despite contractual obligations and federal orders," he added.
The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County consists of five elected officials from the Washoe County Commission and the Sparks and Reno city councils. For decades, RTC has subcontracted management of the transit system to for-profit contractors. The current management company is Keolis Transit America, a subsidiary of multi-national for-profit Keolis Transit.
"Our patience with Keolis evaporated when we learned that a passenger was refused boarding because his pants were down but maskless passengers were allowed on the bus," Watson said.
"An epidemic of barefaced passengers rides every day, some on dangerously overcrowded buses. One rider even spit at a driver. Bus system management has tried to have it both ways, posting signs that masks are ineffective and others stating masks are mandatory, all the while threatening drivers with firing if they try to enforce Gov. Sisolak's legal orders," Watson added.
"Keolis has even perverted the Americans With Disabilities Act in order to proceed under the fictitious and feckless assumption that everyone without a mask is somehow disabled and can't wear one," the longtime union leader stated.
"This is not Russia and this conduct is bad for tourism and economic development," Watson declared.
"This unfortunate situation has been festering for decades and the Teamsters have consistently warned that this would happen," Watson said.
"RTC has two levels of bureaucracy on top of the foreign subcontractor, so whenever there's a problem, elected officials and system administrators can blame the non-Nevadans and walk away. Giving control to foreign companies provides local elected officials with plausible deniability no matter what happens," Watson asserted.
"Over the years, it's only cost untold millions in tax dollars. Now, it's costing lives. RTC has spent advertising money promoting the fiction that they are following Gov. Sisolak's mask mandate when they are doing no such thing. Ms. Jardon apparently believes TV commercials," he added.
"Bus passengers are often among the most vulnerable in our society, the young, the elderly, the disabled, minorities and people going to get tested for the virus," Watson said.
"This 'no mask required policy' clearly has a disparate impact on low income families and disproportionately on people of color," stated Reno-Sparks NAACP President Lonnie Feemster.
Noting that Keolis enforces mask-wearing in Europe, Nevada Lt. Governor Kate Marshall recently asked "why can't they keep passengers and drivers safe in Nevada?"
Last June, Washoe County health officer Kevin Dick advised people to walk away from businesses not practicing proper safety procedures.
"Over the past seven months, we have filed charges of illegal unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board and won. We have gone to U.S. District Court where expensive union-busting Keolis lawyers have employed every trick in the book to delay action to protect passengers and workers," Watson noted.
"We have beseeched all levels of government, including law enforcement, to help. Without exception, each and every one has passed the buck. Perhaps now that the election season is over and more people are getting sick and dying, something will change," Watson added.
The union has called for free ongoing testing for drivers and support staff as well as using RTC security to enforce the governor's mandate.
System managers told KTVN TV-2 in September that they will not use their standing security force to enforce the governor's orders but instead rely on local police. However, both the Washoe County Sheriff and Reno Police Department have served notice that they will not aid the safety of the bus system.
"Regional Transportation Commission Executive Director Bill Thomas has appeared on paid advertising asserting that the governor's mandate is being enforced. But his managers are telling our drivers that anyone without a mask must be allowed to board or they risk disciplinary action," Watson noted.
The bus system has now become a rolling superspreader, a major contributor to Washoe County's spiraling infection rates.
"We need the strongest enforcement in the state because 20,000 passengers a day are being exposed due to the intransigence of transit managers and indifference of our political leaders," Watson said.
"Show me a local bar that serves 20,000 people a day," Watson asked.
Drivers are under constant threat of discipline or firing for refusing to board maskless passengers.
In Los Angeles, a Keolis driver in treatment for breast cancer was fired for demanding that a passenger put on a mask and for complaining about the companys failure to outfit buses with plastic partitions or to supply drivers with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). Keolis has refused to reinstate her or modify policies. At last report, at least thirteen Foothill Transit operators had become infected with COVID-19.
"Maybe we should re-name the disease KEOLIS-19," Watson suggested.
The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County is comprised of Washoe County Commissioners Vaughn Hartung (R) and Bob Lucey (R); Reno City Councilmembers Neoma Jardon (R) and Oscar Delgado (D). The City of Sparks seat is now filled by Councillor Kristopher Dahir (R).
Mr. Delgado recently announced that he and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19.
UPDATE: Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson replaced Mr. Dahir on Dec. 18, 2020.
Supporting photos and documents have been posted at NevadaLabor.com.
Chartered in 1934, Teamsters Local 533 represents about 2,000 workers in various trades throughout northern Nevada and eastern California.
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