9 April 2021
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT
GARY WATSON, President
Teamsters Union Local 533
(775) 348-6060 ext. 104
Governor must not risk pandemic management by Washoe officials
"A pattern of intentional and malign neglect"
Two days after warning of Washoe County's first transit
strike in two decades, Teamsters Union Local 533 has cautioned Gov.
Steve Sisolak against yielding control of pandemic response to Washoe
Teamsters Union Local
Bob Lucey and Vaughn Hartung
now advocate for repeal of mask mandates just when Nevada cases
are beginning to surge again," stated Local 533 President Gary
"Over the past year, their conduct
has followed a pattern of intentional and malign neglect," Watson
"They have ignored their superspreader bus system and let their
subordinates do whatever they please," the longtime labor leader
Friday brought news reports that Nevada has seen its biggest increase
in COVID cases in nearly a month and a new, more virulent Brazilian
variant has been identified in the state.
The union represents RTC Ride operators and support staff and has filed
almost 100 federal and state charges of safety and workers' rights violations
against the system. More than two dozen bus operators have been sickened,
two admitted to intensive care. Two
Las Vegas African-American woman drivers lie dead.
"Our hopes were raised last Wednesday when I met with Regional
Transportation Commission Executive
Director Bill Thomas on the same day the Reno
Gazette-Journal published the union's guest editorial documenting
RTC's intentional violation of safety standards," Watson stated.
On Thursday morning, RTC's for-profit contractor sent a memo to drivers
ordering enforcement of the governor and the president's mask mandates:
"Per RTC home office, passengers are required to wear a mask
while on bus. If they say they are exempt, they must show a formal documentation
from their health care provider."
"But the maskless must still be allowed to board, a distinction
without a difference," Watson said.
A Friday followup to Watson from foreign-owned management contractor
Keolis Transit stated "Operators cannot refuse passengers
to board the bus. Operators are to keep the bus moving and call dispatch
to have a road supervisor meet it on route, or if they are close to
a station, dispatchers will call security. It is critical for the operators'
safety not to confront the passengers and let security or road supervisors
handle the situation."
"Road supervisors are unavailable and now drive buses," Watson
said, "and RTC has refused to let their security staff become involved.
Now, they have been thrown into the fray with little notice or training,"
he added. Security staff are only available at two downtown switching
stations, one in Reno and one in Sparks.
"We are very alarmed that Washoe
County Commissioners voted 4-1 on Thursday to take control of local
safety when Mssrs. Lucey and Hartung have demonstrably endangered
public safety during the entire pandemic," Watson said.
Only County Commissioner Jeanne
Herman (R) voted against the county takeover.
The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC) is comprised
of Reno City Councilmembers Neoma Jardon (R-RTC chair), and Oscar
Delgado (D); Washoe County Commissioners Hartung (R) and Lucey (R)
and Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson (R). [CONTACT]
Chartered in 1934, Teamsters Local 533 represents about 2,200 workers
in various trades throughout northern Nevada, eastern California and
the Tahoe Basin.
Links, references and history, including the 2002
transit strike, may be accessed via NevadaLabor.com/
first bus strike in almost 20 years
4-6-2021 / Reno Gazette-Journal 4-7-2021
By Debbie Calkins and Gary Watson
less than three months, Washoe County may find itself with a crippled
mass transit system.
& Principal Officer
the first woman to head the union.
RTC Ride bus
operators and support staff risk their lives serving more than 20,000
riders a day. Unfortunately, elected officials and an unaccountable
bureaucracy have allowed the system to become a COVID-19 superspreader.
Because of intentionally lax safety standards, more than two dozen Washoe
drivers and very probably more have been infected. The Regional Transportation
Commission (RTC) and its for-profit management contractor, Keolis Transit,
withhold such information and much more despite our union contract.
RTC's bureaucracy has committed wholesale illegal, unfair labor practices
and health violations. They even threatened a federal arbitrator and
must be held accountable.
At least two local bus operators have been hospitalized in ICUs. Two
African-American women drivers in Las Vegas lie dead. In southern
fired an African-American woman who was recovering from breast cancer
surgery. Still on chemotherapy, her immune system was suppressed.
She thus asked a passenger to don a mask and was fired.
Teamsters Local 533 is constantly fighting similar "disciplinary
France-based Keolis hired "permanent temps" in several states
including Nevada. After 90 days, they were mandated to become fully
compensated employees but were not. Worse, the temp subcontractor was
owned by the wife of Keolis' former Reno general manager, Abul Hassan.
RTC's media machine sends out press releases and buys expensive TV ads
bragging that they are "99.9 percent compliant" with safety
standards. Do any of the five elected RTC commissioners (Neoma
Jardon, Vaughn Hartung, Bob Lucey, Oscar Delgado
and Ed Lawson) ever take a bus ride?
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."
expects his employees to be acrobats, adhering while ignoring.
This is nothing new. Mr. Hassan ordered this last June 26: "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.)
John Mayer, a former Sparks Councilman and RTC member, and current
Reno Councilmember Jenny Brekhus have advocated for outsourcing
to end and bring accountability home.
Teamsters Local 533 and the Reno-Sparks
NAACP have long decried non-enforcement of Gov. Sisolak's
(and later, President Biden's) mask and distancing mandates by
Keolis. RTC's board and management simply ignored.
The union has filed more than 70 health, safety and workplace complaints
before federal agencies and actions in U.S. District Court. Keolis has
used them to stonewall and delay, typical union busting, pushing toward
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 our union contract.
Why won't RTC let us 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 us that Keolis swept much of the rest directly
to corporate profit.
In June, 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.
By then, we may not have a bus system to argue about. Our union contract
expires at the same time.
A perfect storm looms in June and only concerted action by elected RTC
officials can mitigate the potential damage.
Please contact your five commissioners and advocate for endangered passengers
Debbie Calkins is the first woman chief executive officer of
Teamsters Union Local 533. Gary Watson serves as the union's
The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe
County is comprised of Sparks Mayor
Washoe County Commissioners Vaughn
Hartung 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.
Supporting photos, documents, references and archives may be accessed
Chartered in 1934, Teamsters Local 533 represents about 2,200 workers
in various trades throughout northern Nevada and eastern California.
"We are world-class virus smiters" Teamsters: "And world-renowned liars"
Kristen Hackbarth / This Is Reno 2-3-2021
RTC Transit Strike Archive