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‘We were caught off guard’: RTC Chair Jardon issues statement amid strike

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 1:48 PM PDT|Updated: Sep. 28, 2021 at 12:02 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - SEPT. 28, 12 P.M. RTC Board Chair Neoma Jardon on Tuesday said the board was caught off guard by the second labor strike in which drivers walked off the job on Monday.

She released the following statement:

“As Chair of the RTC Board, my biggest concern is for our passengers. My heart goes out to the people who got on the bus yesterday morning to go to work, or to go to their doctor’s appointment, or to get groceries, and then were unable to get home as scheduled. These repetitive strikes are harming those who can least afford it and rely on public transportation, especially during the pandemic. Although the RTC is not a party to the negotiations, we learned that during negotiations last week that all articles presented were accepted on Friday and all parties agreed to meet again on October 7 and 8 to continue negotiations.

Needless to say, we were caught off guard by the second strike initiated by the Teamsters Local 533 on Monday. While the RTC has no control over when a strike is called or ended, we believe it is imperative to step in to ensure our riders do not continue to be negatively impacted by these repetitive strikes. Therefore, RTC will offer free rides on RIDE, FlexRIDE, taxi and UberX for all regular transit users when a strike is called by the Teamsters until the Collective Bargaining Agreement is final. To schedule a ride or to ask questions, please call RTC Customer Service at (775) 348-RIDE (7433).

Jardon continued that the board remains hopeful negotiations will continue and the parties will reach an agreement.

ORIGINAL STORY: All RTC routes are currently suspended due to a labor strike.

On the Regional Transportation Commission’s website, a service disruption reads:

We have been notified that, due to a labor strike, transportation has been interrupted. Keolis apologizes for any disruptions this causes for passengers as well as those waiting for service. Please check back for more information as it becomes available. Thank you.

Currently, all routes have been suspended until further notice. Please check back for more information on which routes we will run tomorrow.

The drivers, who are represented by Teamsters Local 533 are employed by Keolis.

In a statement released Monday, Sept. 27, 2021, Teamsters Local 533 President Gary Watson accused Keolis of stonewalling negotiations, and said, “At this rate it will take more than three or four years to achieve a contract.”

Other accusations against Keolis in a release sent to media on Monday include failing to implement local, state, and federal COVID-19 safety requirements, cutting overtime and ignoring safety measures.

“Keolis Corporation is failing to recognize that there is a quality-of-life component for their employees and quality of life matters in our community. Many of our bus operators and support staff are mothers or single parents who need safe workplaces so they can be there for their families. Teamsters 533 has become a job placement facilitator, helping mistreated operators and support staff find work at UPS, Waste Management or other transit facilities, where they’re treated with respect,” said Watson.

Drivers previously went on strike back in August 2021 over a proposal by Keolis to replace the union healthcare plan with a non-union plan. At that time, Keolis denied the union’s claims, saying it would continue offering the union healthcare plan, while giving younger employees with no dependents the choice of a less expensive option.

KOLO 8 News Now reached out to a Keolis representative for comment on the latest strike. Mike Ake - Regional Vice President, Operations for Keolis North America responded with the following statement:

“We are disappointed the union chose to take this action rather than continue to negotiate.

Keolis is focused on the safety and well-being of our passengers and employees. We will continue to work with the Regional Transportation Commission to ensure passengers have the most frequent and reliable transportation options possible. Updates on service to follow.”

RTC Chair Neoma Jardon said, “We are incredibly disappointed in the harm this second strike is having on our passengers who can least afford it and rely on transit service to get them where they need to go, especially during the pandemic.”

The RTC announced contingency transit service as follows:

  • RTC FlexRIDE: FlexRIDE service is available in the contingency zones noted on maps provided at rtcwashoe.com, but this service is limited on vehicles and staff to operate the vehicles. Therefore, the RTC must limit access to this service to essential trips only, such as medical, dental, vision, job/employment-related trips. Please call the RTC to book. Bookings via the app are not currently available for the contingency zones.
  • Taxi: Taxi service is available by calling the RTC at (775) 348-0477. The RTC will book the taxi trip for the customer.
  • UberX: UberX vouchers are available to riders who are stranded and need emergency transportation. For information and to request a voucher call the RTC at (775) 348-0477, and press option 2.

UberX program details:

  • The RTC Washoe-Uber Emergency Rides voucher is valid for 2 Uber rides with a maximum of $20 per Uber ride. Any amount over $20 will be automatically charged to the user’s debit or credit card on file on their Uber account.
  • Uber Vouchers will expire on October 31, 2021.
  • Eligible rides can be taken 24/7.
  • Vehicle type will apply only to UberX trips.
  • Service area: Eligible trips must start and end in the Reno-Sparks area. Trips that begin or end outside of the service area are not eligible.

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