THE ANSWER IS BLOWING IN THE WIND (5-21-2021) — Trade unionists and community supporters brave a typical balmy northern Nevada spring morning as the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County votes to spend taxpayer money to pay strikebreakers. The three people nearest the camera are, right to left, Reno City Councilmembers Devon Reese and Jenny Brekhus (with hand on the banner's corner) and Local 533 President Gary Watson at Ms. Brekhus' right. [Read the full story]
MILKING PROFITS: Teamsters protest Washoe RTC bus contractor
By Bob Conrad / + Video 5-21-2021

14 June 2021

GARY WATSON, President
Teamsters Union Local 533
(775) 348-6060 ext. 104

This meme material is blowing in the wind on 9th Street right now — all 12 feet of it. Feel free to print out this version. Suggestions below.
Use as a bookmark, bumper sticker or Internet meme. Potential caption hereinbelow —>


Now, to business —>
Regional Union Council Passes Strike Sanction
Bus contractor sued for unpaid health insurance premiums

RENO, NV (Monday, 6-14-2021)— The Northern Nevada Central Labor Council has unanimously passed a strike sanction resolution against the for-profit operator of the Washoe County mass transit system.

Gary Watson, President
Teamsters Union Local 533
Driver/new mom Athena Duffy with Teamsters Local 533 Business Agent Ross Kinson 5-21-21

"We waited as long as we could to take this action but local elected officials have left us no choice," stated Teamsters Local 533 President Gary Watson.

"We must protect our workers and the public they serve," he added.

"The five elected Regional Transportation Commission officials are acting in concert with foreign-owned Keolis Transit to endanger the public and break the employees' union," Watson said.

Central Labor Council President Mike Pilcher said that Keolis Transit's current contract proposal "includes dissolving the workers' health care trust fund and reducing their pay and benefits. The bus operators have given their all for the community and the contractor throughout the pandemic," Pilcher said.

"If this is how Keolis intends to thank them, we can do better," the retired firefighter added.

Watson accuses the France-based company of not bargaining in good faith with the union.

"Keolis proposals intend to diminish federally protected rights and almost 40 years of bargaining history all because they want to further profit at the expense of Washoe County taxpayers,” Watson said.

The union's current contract expires on June 30. The only previous walkout happened in 2002.

The Northern Nevada Central Labor Council/AFL-CIO is comprised of 34 unions in building trades, services and government, including first responders. Council delegates voted the strike sanction on June 9.

"Our resolution empowers all our member unions to support the transit system workers in any and every way possible," Pilcher said.

"We further encourage union retirees, families, friends, suppliers, signatory companies and our constituency groups to do the same," Pilcher added.

Reno City Councilmember Jenny Brekhus and former Sparks City Councilmember John Mayer have advocated eliminating the middleman by ending four decades of hiring for-profit contractors and instead making transit system workers RTC employees.

"The current system is demonstrably wasteful and unaccountable," Watson said.

[] France-based Keolis Transit has failed to pay more than $50,000 in 2019 worker health insurance premiums. The Northern California General Teamsters Security Fund filed action in federal court earlier this month to force payment. Keolis also remains in arrears for premiums due as recently as May, 2021.
[] Keolis received permission from RTC on May 21 to pay strikebreakers, something a long list of for-profit contractors have not had power to do. (See the 1999 archive at )
[] Keolis has consistently refused to implement local, state and federal mask and social distancing requirements and ordered drivers not to enforce under threat of firing. (Written proof at
[] In contravention of the union contract, Keolis has refused to give the union information on the dozens of drivers and support staff who have been infected with COVID-19. At least two were admitted to intensive care.
[] The union has filed 37 National Labor Relations Board charges of illegal and unfair labor practices and has 38 binding arbitrations pending, some over a year old. Keolis has not only delayed but has personally threatened federal arbitrators after they have been selected. Local 533 also has two additional legal filings pending in federal court.
[] Among the union's legal actions is the case of Athena Duffy, a Latinx young mother who was illegally denied mandatory lactation breaks and access to sanitary facilities mandated by the union contract.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County is comprised of Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson, Washoe County Commissioners Vaughn Hartung [1] and Bob Lucey; Reno City Councilmembers Oscar Delgado and Neoma Jardon, board chair. Mr. Delgado and his wife both tested positive for COVID-19 in December. He is currently CEO of the Community Health Alliance of Washoe County. RTC board e-mail <>

See for links, references, photos and complete background on these issues and Teamsters/RTC history including the 2002 Hot August Strike.

Chartered in 1934, Teamsters Local 533 represents about 2,200 workers in various trades throughout northern Nevada and eastern California.
[1] "Isn't there something we can do for the bus operators?"— RTC Commissioner Vaughn Hartung, 5-21-2021, in the same meeting where he voted to sanction hiring of strikebreakers.

Keolis' sham proposal...
* takes legal requirements out of the union contract
* is silent on economic issues
* does not explain their rationale for cutbacks
* removes existing language on uniforms, appearance guidelines and drug & alcohol insurance coverage
* would exclude temps from a new collective bargaining agreement, making an unlimited number of new-hires not subject to the union contract. (They have made a habit of hiriing "permanent temps," a practice begun under a front company owned by the wife of their former Reno general manager, Abul Hassan.)
* rewrites all discipline provisions making any union contract worthless as it would make all workers "fire-at-will" employees who may be terminated at any time for any reason or no reason, like most other Nevada workers. Keolis is still hiring "permanent temps" with no benefits even though the current contract calls for formal hiring after 90 days.
* eliminates the shuttle from the Villanova/US 395 center to downtown Reno, forcing drivers to take their own cars and look for and pay for parking downtown. (This creates more air pollution, cars on the road and expense for the drivers.)
* gets rid of workers comp language and eliminates temporary alternative work provisions (e.g., if an injured driver gets temp work making phone calls while recovering). Keolis would instead follow Nevada law which is much weaker.
* gets rid of Teamsters health insurance (which they have not been paying) and goes to the deficient company plan.

The latest addition to Teamsters Local 533's Road Show (needs a little paint)

Read it for yourself

Here's a verbatim order from Keolis Operations Manager Taquan Jackson: "Effective 12:00AM (midnight), February 2, 2021 there will be a federal mandate for masks to be worn on public transportation. This is a requirement the local team and RTC have been encouraging and adhering to for some time now. Although the mandate was (sic) been escalated our operators are not to enforce this policy whatsoever."


Mr. Jackson expects his employees to be acrobats, adhering while ignoring.

This is nothing new. Mr. Hassan ordered this on June 26, 2020: "We are not to deny ridership for not having a mask, do not refuse riders."

A driver can refuse to board a pantsless passenger but not a maskless one. (That sitcom scenario actually happened last year.)

The transit system's bedrock customers are the least among us: The elderly, the very young, minorities, the disabled, homeless and those of low income who cannot afford autos or don't drive.

Some employees are allowed to work sick. Health, safety and COVID-19 test results have been withheld in violation of the union contract. Why won't RTC let the union know how many safety complaints come in from passengers?

Last year, RTC received $26.2 million in federal relief funds.

RTC Washoe provided billing from Keolis which showed they spent only $338,000 on COVID-19 safety.

RTC further informed the union that Keolis swept much of the rest directly to corporate profit.

On August 17, 2021, a National Labor Relations Board judge will review why Keolis refuses to disclose how many union members contracted COVID-19, among other union-busting charges.

Please contact your five commissioners and advocate for endangered passengers and workers.


RTC: "We are world-class virus smiters" Teamsters: "And world-renowned liars"
By Kristen Hackbarth / This Is Reno 2-3-2021

2002 RTC Transit Strike Archive

Back to Teamsters Local 533 War Room LOCAL 533 ARCHIVES Teamsters 533 home page & war room

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Links to 16-year Teamsters 533 news-photo-strike archives starting with the 1997 UPS strike

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