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KUNR Today: Bus driver strike over, Holiday shopping up

A group of seven people on strike gather around a banner. Many hold signs reading "On Strike."
Shelby Herbert
KUNR Public Radio
A group of people strike outside the bus station on 4th Street in Reno. The union representing RTC Washoe bus drivers agreed to a new contract with contractor Keolis on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.

Third RTC bus driver strike ends
By Kaleb Roedel

The third bus driver strike in Washoe County in the past four months is officially over.

The union representing bus drivers with the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County and the agency’s contractor reached a new three-year agreement Thursday. This comes after three labor practice strikes and 60 days on the picket line.

RTC Washoe says passengers will start to see more routes added on Saturday.

Nevada consumers spend $516 million over Thanksgiving shopping period
By Kaleb Roedel

After waking up from their Thanksgiving slumber, Nevada shoppers were not shy about spending this year. Consumers in the Silver State spent an estimated $516 million on gifts and other merchandise over the Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday. That’s according to the Retail Association of Nevada.

Close to 2 million Nevadans shopped in person or online during that five-day period.

Over this holiday shopping season, retail sales in Nevada are projected to grow by 10% compared to 2020, and Nevada is not alone. Nationally, holiday shoppers are on track to set a new sales record this year despite the coronavirus recession. According to the National Retail Federation, U.S. consumers are expected to spend $859 billion between last month and this month.

Governor Sisolak appoints 9 members to new workforce development committee
By Kaleb Roedel

Nevada increased its workforce development efforts this week with the appointment of nine members to a newly formed workforce development committee called the Community College Workforce Training and Programs Committee. Its goal is to study how the community colleges in Nevada can align their workforce training programs with the demands of the state’s current labor force, which has been heavily impacted by the pandemic.

The committee consists of business and education leaders from across the state, including Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Melody Rose, and was formed through the signing of Assembly Bill 450 during the 2021 legislative session.

Public hearing over controversial lithium mine moved online, again
By Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

A public hearing about the controversial Thacker Pass lithium mine in Northern Nevada was moved online Wednesday. It’s not the first time the public has had to weigh in on the project remotely.

State environmental officials originally scheduled the hearing to be held near the mine site, but they ended up holding it virtually after peaceful protesters interrupted an earlier session.

The mine would provide critical materials for electric vehicle batteries, and it already has federal approval – a decision that came in the final days of the Trump presidency. Indigenous people in the region say the federal government failed to properly consult with them because the review came during COVID-19 lockdowns. Many tribal communities lack broadband internet service or access to computers.

They also argue that federal religious protections apply to Thacker Pass. Kayla Perrel Smith spoke in opposition to the mine because her family travels to the area every summer.

“It’s sacred land; it’s sacred spiritual ground of the Sundance ceremonies, of the Ghost Dance,” she said.

Opponents are also fighting the mine in federal court.

Newsom: Omicron variant won’t spark California shutdown
By The Associated Press

Gov. Gavin Newsom says confirmation of the first U.S. case of the omicron variant in California wasn't surprising and won’t force another economic shutdown.

State health officials say they’re increasing COVID-19 testing at California’s airports for arrivals from countries identified as areas where the newly identified variant is spreading. But otherwise Newsom said Wednesday that he doesn’t anticipate that the most populous state will impose another stay-at-home order or new restrictions.

California health officials say the first U.S. case of the omicron variant was identified in a San Francisco resident who had recently returned from South Africa and developed symptoms.

Western Nevada College president taking top job at Texas school
By Jacob Solis, The Nevada Independent

Western Nevada College President Vincent Solis has announced that he will leave the Carson City school at the end of the year after being named the new president of a community college near Houston.

Solis will replace the long-serving outgoing president of Brazosport College. His departure comes after roughly three years on the job and marks a return to Texas for Solis, who earned degrees at Texas A&M and spent years working there.

His departure will likely initiate a new search by the Nevada System of Higher Education over the coming weeks and months. WNC is Nevada’s smallest institution by enrollment, with roughly 3,600 students.

Read the full story at thenevadaindependent.com.

Note: Jacob Solis is not related to Vincent Solis. As a note of disclosure, the Board of Regents to the Nevada System of Higher Education owns the license to this station.

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