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Reno bus drivers on strike for third time in recent months

A group of seven people on strike gather around a banner. Many hold signs reading “On Strike.”
Shelby Herbert
KUNR Public Radio
Strikers gathered at Center Street Station in Reno on November 10, 2021 to make their demands known.

Reno bus drivers have returned to the picket line with new terms and a renewed intensity for their third strike in three months.

During the most recent round of negotiations, the union representing local bus drivers presented their contractor, Keolis Transit, with a proposal for wages and pension plans. Gary Watson, president of the Local 533 Teamsters Union, said that their proposal was not ratified.

“Keolis Transit has a subpar offer on the table, which was four percent a year, over three years,” Watson said. “That offer is below the Consumer Price Index. The CPI for the mountain region just went up to seven percent."

Keolis, however, stands firm in their three-year wage proposal, according to Mike Ake, Vice President of regional operations.

“This is more than fair, the offer we’ve got on the table,” Ake said. “It is more and larger pay increases than any other collective bargaining agreement in the local area."

But the Teamsters’ demands are more complicated than just wages. Their new proposal includes improved healthcare benefits, as well as expanded COVID-19 safety measures for drivers.

“The corporate bosses got to sit at home and play with their kids, while the hard working men and women of labor had to still go to work and put themselves out on the line, and getting sick with COVID — some of them dying,” Watson said.

It’s unclear how long this strike will go on. Bill Thomas is the Director of the Regional Transportation Commission. He said it’s time to bring in outside help for the negotiation process.

“I would hope the next step is for the Teamsters to accept a third-party mediator to get the parties back together to get this resolved,” Thomas said, “so we can end this strike and end the loss of wages for the drivers.”

Thomas said that these service disruptions continue to hurt people in the community who can’t afford to do the essentials, like going to work or making medical appointments.

KUNR's Kaleb Roedel contributed to this story. This story has been updated to reflect that Thomas's quote is recommending that outside help be brought in for the negotiation process. 

Shelby Herbert is a former student reporter at KUNR Public Radio and the Mick Hitchcock, Ph.D., Project for Visualizing Science.
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