BREAKING NEWS AND THEN SOME—>

Updated 7-23-2021 GMT

SUPERSPREADER UPDATE

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 / ThisIsReno.com + Video 5-21-2021


Now, to business —>

BUS BOSSES PUSH PR, IGNORE SAFETY
Not hiring enough drivers? Blame the drivers, of course.
Enriching a foreign corporation at taxpayer expense
Bus boss pay raise not granted

Losers, winners, saint, sinners & Yogi
Barbwire by Andrew Quarantino Barbáno / Expanded from Sparks Tribune 7-21-2021

Union leaders: Foreign contractor endangers bus riders, workers and community
By Mike Pilcher and Gary Watson / rgj.com 7-16-2021 / Reno Gazette-Journal 7-18-2021

ISN'T $220,000 A YEAR ENOUGH PAY?
Bus drivers' union opposes rewarding RTC boss for abuses
Updated 7-15, 7-16 & 7-17-2021 GMT

OF RATS AND HOGS: More than 650 RTCRide rides cancelled
By Bob Conrad, Publisher / ThisIsReno.com / 7-15-2021

Czar Donaldov infects Reno-Sparks bus system
Barbwire by Andrew Quarantino Barbáno / Expanded from the 7-14-2021 Sparks Tribune

BUS SYSTEM BARBECUES BUS RIDERS
SUPERSPREADER SENTENCES PASSENGERS TO HEATSTROKE

19 buses sit idle on record 104-degree day / 16 routes affected
Teamsters Union president blocked from seeing members
Updated 7-10, 7-11, 7-12, 7-14 & 7-15-2021 GMT

15 July 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT
GARY WATSON, President
Teamsters Union Local 533
(775) 348-6060 ext. 104

Updated 7-16, 17, 18 and 7-20-2021

Detail from Alerts on rtcwashoe.com 7-9-2021

ISN'T $220,000 A YEAR ENOUGH PAY?
Bus drivers' union opposes rewarding RTC boss for abuses
Enriching a foreign corporation at taxpayer expense
"Show up. Stand up. Speak up before Friday vote."
UPDATE: Two dozen union members, along with Reno City Councilmember Jenny Brekhus showed up to speak.
The board pulled the Thomas pay raise off the agenda for consideration at a later date. See you there. Great job!

Updated 7-15, 7-16, 7-17 and 7-21 & 7-23-2021 GMT
View video of the meeting

RENO, Nev. (15 July 2021) — The job performance of RTC Executive Director Bill Thomas [1] headlines the Friday, July 16, agenda of the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County. The elected officials will consider a pay increase along with a potential bonus up to five percent of his current $219,705.91 annual compensation package.


Board Members:

I just watched today's Board Meeting on YouTube. It was very informative and I wanted to voice my agreement with all of my fellow Bus Drivers that were able to attend and speak. I was disappointed that no one on the board made any comments regarding the on going negotiations between Keolis and our Union except the unfounded voiced confidence in Keolis by the RTC Director.

Specifically I would like to comment on the Service Change announced to begin August 1st to the Virginia Line Route. The way I heard it explained the Virginia Line will be extended five (5) hours Monday through Saturday and four (4) hours on Sunday. As you should be aware we will still have a month left on the drivers current bid so who exactly is going to be available to drive those extra hours? I noticed no one on the board wanted to ask that question. And under the current under staffing situation which has been caused more by the heat, and Keolis's failure to maintain acceptable staffing levels, than the lie of the "Blue Flu" I see another failure coming. Please see the below "RTC Alerts" for today with emphasis on the Virginia Line (18 posted Runs cancelled) and remember that it is still morning so there will be more cancelled runs as the day progresses,

I'm sure I speak for most of the drivers when I say all we want out of our employment is decent working conditions with security, livable wages and benefits, respect from management and the ability to be proud of what we do.

Thank you for your attention and your anticipated assistance. Now I have to leave and go drive the Virginia Line until it ends this evening.

Rich Birdsong, Operator and Teamsters Union Member
7-15-2021
_______

Good morning. I am Debbie Calkins, Secretary-Treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 533.

I am here today on behalf of my membership, the essential workers of Keolis Transit, your contractor of fixed route bus services. Between the RTC and Keolis, they have distributed false information through the media about routes being missed, blaming all the missed routes on the essential workers who have called off sick.

Those sick calls have been minor not even 5%. The truth is the bus system is being mismanaged and not operating at capacity. That capacity is 176 drivers you currently have 149 drivers. Your narrative is intended to cause strife between the passengers and employees.

Please be honest about these essential workers in the future, they have provided a tremendous service to this community during the pandemic. They do not deserve to be treated like a piece of trash at your expense. Thank you.

Debbie Calkins, CEO, Teamsters Union Local 533
7-15-2021

"Teamsters Local 533 objects to any increase or bonus for Mr. Thomas," stated union President Gary Watson.

The RTC board will meet at 9:00 a.m. at the Washoe County Commission chambers, 1001 E. 9th Street at N. Wells Avenue in Reno.

"Mr. Thomas' performance review does not merit the name and is so superficial that it reads more like a political campaign brochure," Watson said.

"The 'review' reveals that the board has not and will not set objective goals and makes only vague cosmetic suggestions. Worse, the very wordy document makes no mention of the mass transit system at all. It thus reflects Mr. Thomas’ track record of serious service deficiencies combined with financial profligacy worthy of a frat party," Watson continued, "while the board says it's not their department."

Starting in March, 2020, Thomas waived all performance incentives and penalties for missed trips and route failures by foreign management contractor Keolis Transit.

"The health and safety of bus passengers and operators have been seriously jeopardized by management's refusal to comply with legally binding mask and safety mandates," Watson said.

"To pump up the corporate bottom line, Keolis has failed to hire enough drivers and refuses to pay overtime to existing staff to cover routes. As a result, passengers have been left stranded in record-breaking heat. Keolis is free to fiddle while people burn," he asserted.

"Rewarding Mr. Thomas will tell RTC staff, Keolis and the public that each member of the RTC Board ratifies and encourages Mr. Thomas' continuing dereliction of duty, the degrading of the transit system and tremendous enrichment of a for-profit foreign corporation.

"Thomas erodes the system by allowing Keolis to leave open over 30 driver vacancies and permitting them to propose a bus operator schedule that adds 20,000 car trips per year to Washoe County traffic.

"Adding insult to injury, he has facilitated a collective bargaining proposal intended to provoke strikes. It imposes below-inflation wage 'hikes' and would make employees part-timers without health insurance – while Thomas has been making $220,000 a year," Watson stated.

"Mr. Thomas has enriched Keolis by refusing to impose contractual cash penalties for missed routes and failure to provide an onsite manager. He has permitted Keolis to avoid an investigation over the financial misdeeds of its former manager Abul Hassan and actively participated with Keolis to resist the union’s efforts to enforce its Collective Bargaining Agreement," Watson charged.

"Mr. Thomas could not have done any of this unless the RTC commissioners themselves signaled him either singly or severally that such conduct is what the board wanted. Granting Thomas any kind of a bonus will explicitly endorse the policies that Thomas has implemented -- degrade the system and enrich Keolis," Watson concluded.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County is comprised of Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson (R), Washoe County Commissioners Vaughn Hartung (R) [3] and Bob Lucey (R); Reno City Councilmembers Oscar Delgado (D) and Neoma Jardon, (R), board chair. RTC board e-mail <rtcpubliccomments@rtcwashoe.com>

Watson encourages everyone to research the facts and express their opinions to the board Friday.

"Show up. Stand up. Speak up," he concluded.

Chartered in 1934, Teamsters Local 533 represents about 2,200 workers in various trades throughout northern Nevada and eastern California, including about 200 RTC/Keolis workers.

UPDATE: Two dozen union members, along with Reno City Councilmember Jenny Brekhus and community leader Chip Evans showed up to speak. The board pulled the Thomas pay raise off the agenda for consideration at a later date. See you there. Great job!

Transcripts of the presentations of Jenny Brekhus and Chip Evans.

CWA 9413/AFL-CIO

BUS SYSTEM BARBECUES BUS RIDERS
SUPERSPREADER SENTENCES PASSENGERS TO HEATSTROKE

19 buses sit idle on record 104-degree day / 16 routes affected
Teamsters Union president blocked from seeing members
Updated 7-10, 7-11, 7-12, 7-14 & 7-15-2021 GMT

RENO, Nev. (10 July 2021) — Washoe County's mass transit system this week placed passengers in serious physical jeopardy.

Gary Watson, President
Teamsters Union Local 533

"RTC Ride failed the community when it was most in need," stated Teamsters Union Local 533 President Gary Watson.

"We have had legitimate differences with the for-profit operators of the Reno-Sparks regional transportation system, but Friday's outright brutality was just plain cruel," Watson said.

"Early Friday, RTCWashoe.com showed business as usual. As the day heated up, so did the notices of routes going down. Nineteen buses serving 16 routes were idle on a record-breaking July 9 104-degree day," Watson added. [UPDATE 7-10-2021: 14 routes were posted as down 24 hours later. UPDATE 7-11-2021: 15 routes were posted as down 48 hours later. UPDATE 7-12-2021: 19 down 72 hours later.]

"The transit system often serves the least among us: the infirm, the disabled, the ill, the young, the elderly, the poor and homeless, low-wage workers, minorities, people who need to get to medical appointments. On Friday, countless numbers waited in the sun for a bus that did not come," Watson said.

"Many of those passengers do not have computers or cell phones to check the Regional Transportation Commission website. Europe-based Keolis Transit should face serious financial penalties but RTC management has taken them off the hook, so they did little or nothing because they did not have to," Watson said.

"With no liquidated damages, Keolis is in no hurry and faces no punishment for failing to hire additional drivers," Watson said.

Section 302-B of RTC's 10-year contract with Keolis Transit calls for liquidated (cash) damages to be imposed at $1000.00 per occurrence of a "missed trip." Keolis is also liable for $1,000,00 a day for not filling its general manager position within 30 days of vacancy. (Section 201-B)

"By my simple calculations, Keolis owes RTC (and thus Washoe County taxpayers) roughly $90,000.00 and perhaps much more for failing to have a GM onsite in the months of April, May and June.

"Unfortunately, RTC Executive Director Bill Thomas [1] has informed me that he waived all penalties for the past 16 months," Watson said, "so they have no incentive to fulfill their obligations. Meanwhile, people bake in record heat while Keolis basks in millions of RTC federal relief funds while having spent only $338,000 on local safety.

"Mr. Thomas and his director of operations Mark Maloney should resign but that must wait because this rudderless ship is already too close to the iceberg. There will be a day of reckoning, but now they need to fix this mismanagement by their contractor," Watson said.

New mom/driver Athena Duffy with Teamsters Local 533 Business Agent Ross Kinson at the 5-21-21 RTC meeting

"The community needs all hands on deck, not a bureaucracy washing its hands of accountability as they have for almost 40 years."

Watson was in the field all day Friday and was threatened with arrest for trespassing at the downtown Reno bus station. [2] RTC security even called 911 while a Keolis bureaucrat screamed threats and obscenities at Watson. [VIEW THE VIDEO]

"The security staff has not been allowed to enforce mask and safety mandates for more than a year while drivers have been under threat of firing for attempting to do so," Watson stated.

"We have had dozens of bus operators contract the virus. Two were even admitted to intensive care fighting for their lives. But RTC's mediocre middle managers waste time by stopping me from legally talking with drivers."

Teamsters Local 533 has more than 70 charges and filings pending at regulatory and judicial levels. The union's health insurance fund has sued Keolis for $50,000 in unpaid health insurance premiums dating to 2019.

"Perhaps Keolis can't attract new drivers because they are not offering livable wages," Watson said.

Nationally and locally, France-based Keolis has a record of hiring "permanent temps" who work for low pay with no benefits and has kept them past the 90-day threshold when they could become full-time employees with union pay and health insurance.

"They even had one guy from back east driving an employee shuttle who did not know that buses must stop at in-service railroad tracks. Not the guy I'd want behind the wheel if I'm a passenger," Watson said.

"Keolis should return to the bargaining table with a problem-solving attitude to fix the mess they've made.

"Rather than put people in danger in 104-degree heat waiting for buses that never come, corporate greed for once should take a back seat to public need," Watson concluded.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County is comprised of Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson (R), Washoe County Commissioners Vaughn Hartung (R) [3] and Bob Lucey (R); Reno City Councilmembers Oscar Delgado (D) and Neoma Jardon, (R), board chair. RTC board e-mail <rtcpubliccomments@rtcwashoe.com>


See NevadaLabor.com for links, references, VIDEO, photos and complete background on these issues and Teamsters/RTC history.

Chartered in 1934, Teamsters Local 533 represents about 2,200 workers in various trades throughout northern Nevada and eastern California, including about 200 RTC/Keolis workers.

[2] The July 9 video shows Teamsters Local 533 President Gary Watson getting 86’d from RTC Washoe property — public propoer — by RTC security and warned he would be arrested for trespassing on RTC property because, according to them, he didn’t have any authority for being on public property or visit with his membership. These guys don't know much about labor law. The security guard called for backup and requested Reno Police assistance, a textbook case of illegal and actionable conduct.

Right before the video was recorded, Keolis Safety Manager Brian Platfoot threatened and cursed Watson loudly enough for passengers to hear and witness it. The RTC security guard was also right there witnessing. What did he do to the out-of-control Mr. Platfoot? You guessed it, nothing. Being an angry manager who hates the union president and its membership is an acceptable practice at RTC Washoe and Keolis Transit. In this case, he was caught plat-footed in front of multiple witnesses.

[3] "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.

Bill Thomas' Big Lie

They are canceling routes and not calling people for overtime. Isn't that in the contract? I haven't gotten a call in a couple weeks. But they're canceling routes anyway and leaving people out in the heat. Attached is the Facebook post RTC put out to the public. Funny how they said "unforeseen." They knew. Soooo many lies. Hope u are having a great day! (7-11-2021)

In Solidarity,

(A longtime Teamsters bus operator, name witheld for obvious reasons)

Unforeseen? Actually, unaccountable.

"The pandemic  created a significant impact on all transit services. In order to allow our contract providers maximum flexibility to adjust schedules to accommodate employees who might have symptoms, starting in March 2020 we determined it necessary to pause both the incentives and the liquidated damages provisions of our service contracts." — RTC Washoe Executive Director Bill Thomas, via e-mail 7-9-2021

"The last thing I want is anybody to show up to a bus stop in the heat you guys are experiencing and not get a ride."— Mike Ake, Keolis Transit regional VP (ThisIsReno.com 7-11-2021)

"They're supposed to be calling the extra work list. It's my understanding they're not." — Gary Watson (ThisIsReno.com 7-11-2021)

 

Text message from a driver sent July 8, 2021

7-12-2021 — Gary Watson's memo to ThisIsReno Publisher Bob Conrad in response to disinformation given by Keolis Transit's Mike Ake published 7-11-2021: "The headline on the story is unfortunate, as casual readers who see only the headline will assume that ThisIsReno has identified that the union is to blame for RTC's abuse of its passengers and of the taxpayers. Keolis employs roughly 160 operators. This last Friday (July 9) they only had 6 operators call in for illness or personal reasons. 6 isn’t going to shut down that many (19) routes when they have relief operators scheduled on stand-by for call offs. They also have an overtime sign-up sheet they are not utilizing. This is all because the RTC isn’t holding Keolis accountable for liquidated damages. It is unfortunate Mike Ake and Keolis are being disingenuous when giving you a response. The passengers and the public deserve the truth. Blaming the union for mismanagement is the easy button.

"They had 9 sick calls as of 3:15p.m. today, 3 more then Friday and similar if not more routes down.

"Sick calls are usually 5 to 8 percent on any given day. Keolis is making it look like a union-caused crisis when the wound is actually self-inflicted. Keolis needs to hire more than 30 drivers but refuses to do so because of their flat-rate contract. When Keolis fails to properly operate the system and RTC waives liquidated damages, the money Keolis saves on wages and benefits becomes pure profit which Keolis can send to Boston, Texas or France as they see fit. RTC must stop this hemorrhage of taxpayers' money.

"Keolis has no incentive to hire 35+ drivers. If RTC politicians keep allowing Bill Thomas to waive liquidated damages, this foreign contractor will not operate the transit system to the agreed capacity to serve one of the nation's fastest-growing areas. RTC and Keolis get to bask in millions of federal dollars while the passengers get left in the heat — public service doing a disservice to the public at its finest.

"
Bill Thomas was hired to direct the RTC. He should either start directing or resign."

 

Czar Donaldov infects Reno-Sparks bus system
Barbwire by Andrew Quarantino Barbáno / Expanded from the 7-14-2021 Sparks Tribune

Rat Patrol

An imported strikebreaker tailing an RTC Ride bus on its route. Federal offenses, anyone?
Megabucks union-busting consultant John Prior scratching his head as he tries to grasp the irony in this photo. (Hint: The sign on the bus says "out of service.")

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."

THE AWFUL TRUTH

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.

CWA 9413/AFL-CIO

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

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

 

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