Most Reno-Sparks bus service suspended as strike continues

August 5, 2021 GMT

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Regional transportation officials suspended bus service Thursday on all but three routes in Reno-Sparks and Carson City as a strike by about 200 union drivers entered its third day.

Teamsters Union Local 533 went on strike at noon Tuesday, citing an impasse in negotiations with RTC Washoe bus service contractor Keolis centered on health care coverage. Their previous collective bargaining agreement expired July 1.

RTC curtailed general service on Wednesday. It announced Thursday that it will operate only three routes. They will travel in both directions on a reduced schedule out of the downtown Reno bus station:

— south along the Virginia Street corridor to Meadowood mall

— east on Fourth Street and Prater Way to neighboring Sparks at the Centennial Plaza

— the RTC regional connector south to Carson City

Those rides will be free due to the labor strike, the RTC said. Travel has been suspended indefinitely on all other routes.

Contingency zones have been designated in Reno and Sparks where residents can try to schedule individual pickups with the RTC FlexRIDE service for essential travel only, including medical, dental and job/employment related trips, the RTC said.

The labor dispute centers on the health plan for employees, who are currently covered under the union’s policy. Keolis currently contributes to the policy but wants the option for a company plan that it can oversee itself.

Gary Watson, Teamsters Union Local 533 president, called the proposal a non-starter.

“We told Keolis the proposal is a poison pill and violates the Health and Welfare Trust Agreement,” Watson said told the Reno Gazette Journal.

Watson added: “The coach operators, technicians, road supervisors, utility workers, and dispatchers who risked their lives during the pandemic deserve better and cannot take the mismanagement by Keolis any longer.”

Keolis accused the union of disruptive behavior during the course of negotiations. The contractor claims the union has canceled meetings, refused arbitration with a federal mediator and abused the grievance process.

“One tactic unions can use is filing an excessive number of grievances … with the National Labor Relations Board,” Mike Ake, regional vice president of operations for Keolis’ eastern region, told the newspaper in July. “(Teamsters Union Local 533) has taken advantage of that.”