THE ANSWER IS BLOWING IN THE WIND (5-21-2021) — Trade unionists and community supporters brave a typical balmy northern Nevada spring morning. Just a blizzard on Donner Pass, brisk winds and snow flurries in the valleys. Cover the damn tomatoes, quick! 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.
MILKING PROFITS: Teamsters protest Washoe RTC bus contractor
By Bob Conrad / + Video 5-21-2021

21 May 2021

GARY WATSON, President
Teamsters Union Local 533
(775) 348-6060 ext. 104

This meme material is blowing in the wind on 9th Street right now — all 12 feet of it. Feel free to print out this version. Suggestions below.
Use as a bookmark, bumper sticker or Internet meme. Potential caption hereinbelow —>


Now, to business —>
MILK RUN before bus bosses Friday morning
Millions for profit & strikebreakers but no mercy for nursing mothers

RENO, NV (Friday, 5-21-2021) — This morning brings the Battle of Milk Run to the streets of Reno. A lactation brigade will greet public officials at Friday morning's 9:00 meeting of the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County. All are welcome.

Gary Watson, President
Teamsters Union Local 533
Athena Duffy with Teamsters Local 533 Business Agent Ross Kinson

RTC will convene in the Washoe County Commission chambers at 1001 E. 9th Street in Reno. Room capacity is limited to 42 at any one time. Masks are highly recommended. The meeting may be viewed via live streaming at WashoeCounty.US or the county YouTube site and via Charter/Spectrum Cable Channel 193.

"The for-profit operator of the RTC Ride bus system is once again trying to milk its Nevada cash cow while it illegally abuses nursing mothers," stated Teamsters Union Local 533 President Gary Watson.

Motherhood and money were to dominate the agenda but motherhood apparently won Thursday night.

Union demonstrators and other organizations will be led Friday by Athena Duffy, a Latinx mother and RTC driver who was denied mandatory lactation breaks and access to sanitary facilities.

"They even changed the locks on her," Watson said. "RTC blames Keolis and vice-versa." [JUDGE FOR YOURSELF. Listen to 51 seconds of moral obtuseness direct from voicemail hell. UNJOY!.]

On April 2, the union filed federal charges accusing foreign-owned Keolis Transit of violating federal law "by discriminatorily and in retaliation for protected concerted activity...retaliating against Athena Duffy for the union activity of seeking and receiving the union's assistance in forcing the employer to comply with lactation rules."

"RTC took its usual position," Watson said, "they washed their hands of the situation and forcing a new mother to scramble for unsanitary and often non-existent facilities." Complete documentation and photos are available at

"Adding insult to injury, Keolis Transit has asked for a blank check to import strikebreakers when contract negotiations have yet to begin," Watson stated.

"The company's conduct validates our longheld view that they want to precipitate a strike after our contract expires next month," he added.

"Keolis has already been hiring 'permanent temps' here and in other markets in violation of union contracts and now they are violating both the law and the unwritten rules of motherhood," Watson said.

"Agenda item 4.13 is a masterpiece of vague legalese but is actually a blank check in disguise," Watson observed.


Good morning Madam Chair and Board Members.

My name is Debbie Calkins, Secretary-Treasurer and Principal Officer of Teamsters Union Local 533. I am here today on behalf of my membership.

Bringing in "extra cleaning” or any "special or emergency services" will likely violate our signatory Collective Bargaining Agreement as cleaning is a bargaining unit position and work.

Teamsters 533 will take any and all legal action necessary to protect the contract.

We respectfully ask the Board to pull this agenda item until the language for "these or any future services” can be defined and we can have a conversation and input regarding hiring, training and implementation.

The Teamsters would be happy to approach the topic during the long anticipated contract negotiations which is the proper arena.

Local 533 realizes the need for "flexibility" in the event of another pandemic and remains open to an emergency side letter of agreement to the CBA anytime such a threat presents.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Mrs. Calkins was not allowed to deliver her prepared remarks until the panel had already voted 4-0 with one absent to approve the contract modification. This is an old maneuver to circumvent the Nevada Open Meeting Law by making decisions before public discussion.


The union was notified last night that item 4.13 may be pulled from the agenda. Preliminary contract negotiations begin next week. The union's collective bargaining agreement expires June 30. [UPDATE: THE ITEM WAS PULLED, REINSTATED AND PASSED. THE UNION WAS NOT AMUSED (See statement at right.] [[MUCH MORE IN THE 5-26-2021 SPARKS TRIBUNE.]]

"The request comes from the same multi-national that skimmed millions in federal COVID-19 relief funds but spent a stingy $338,000 on Reno-Sparks passenger safety. RTC officials confirmed those numbers and Keolis did not dispute them in a long guest editorial in last Wednesday's Reno Gazette-Journal," Watson noted.

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 precautions. The Keolis guest editorial failed to refute or even mention the above dollar amounts raised by the union in April.

"RTC informed us that Keolis shunted much of the rest directly to corporate profit," Watson said.

Keolis announced operating profits of 532 million Euros last year (well over $647 million US).

"The Teamsters do not forget. Without authorization in 1999, a previous contractor flew in rats for a strike that never happened, then asked for a huge reimbursement from taxpayers," Watson noted.

The Teamsters have walked out only once since the bus system's 1982 conversion from Nevada Transit. That work stoppage occurred in 2002 after coming close in 1999 and several times more over the years.

Twenty-two years ago, the late union shop steward Eileen Wiley stated "The employees of the Citifare bus system have asked the Regional Transportation Commission to restore unauthorized and unnecessary expenditures which we feel were deducted from our paychecks.

"Without notifying the commission, Ryder/ATE, Inc., the foreign-owned contractor which manages the system, committed $113,841.32 to import 36 Cincinnati strikebreakers for a strike which never happened. Dividing $113,841.32 by 36 means each strikebreaker cost $3,162.26 for no work," she wrote in a Reno Gazette-Journal guest editorial published on Sept. 6, 1999.

The union has been informed that the chief executive of Keolis Transit USA will be in attendance on Friday as well as other top officers, apparently with no contract modification to sign.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County is comprised of Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson, Washoe County Commissioners Vaughn Hartung and Bob Lucey; Reno City Councilmembers Oscar Delgado and Neoma Jardon, board chair. Mr. Delgado and his wife both tested positive for COVID-19 in December. He is currently CEO of the Community Health Alliance of Washoe County. RTC board e-mail <>

See for links, references, photos and complete background on these issues and Teamsters/RTC history including the 2002 Hot August Strike.

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

Nominations open for the Doofus Awards
Barbwire by Andrew Barbáno /
Expanded from the Wednesday 5-26-2021 Sparks Tribune

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


Officials risk first bus strike in almost 20 years 4-6-2021 / Reno Gazette-Journal 4-7-2021
By Debbie Calkins and Gary Watson

In less than three months, Washoe County may find itself with a crippled mass transit system.

Debbie Calkins
Secretary-Treasurer & Principal Officer
She is the first woman to head the union.

RTC Ride bus operators and support staff risk their lives serving more than 20,000 riders a day. Unfortunately, elected officials and an unaccountable bureaucracy have allowed the system to become a COVID-19 superspreader.

Because of intentionally lax safety standards, more than two dozen Washoe drivers and very probably more have been infected. The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) and its for-profit management contractor, Keolis Transit, withhold such information and much more despite our union contract.

RTC's bureaucracy has committed wholesale illegal, unfair labor practices and health violations. They even threatened a federal arbitrator and must be held accountable.

At least two local bus operators have been hospitalized in ICUs. Two African-American women drivers in Las Vegas lie dead. In southern California, Keolis fired an African-American woman who was recovering from breast cancer surgery. Still on chemotherapy, her immune system was suppressed. She thus asked a passenger to don a mask and was fired.

Teamsters Local 533 is constantly fighting similar "disciplinary actions" here.

France-based Keolis hired "permanent temps" in several states including Nevada. After 90 days, they were mandated to become fully compensated employees but were not. Worse, the temp subcontractor was owned by the wife of Keolis' former Reno general manager, Abul Hassan.

RTC's media machine sends out press releases and buys expensive TV ads bragging that they are "99.9 percent compliant" with safety standards. Do any of the five elected RTC commissioners (Neoma Jardon, Vaughn Hartung, Bob Lucey, Oscar Delgado and Ed Lawson) ever take a bus ride?

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."


Mr. Jackson expects his employees to be acrobats, adhering while ignoring.

This is nothing new. Mr. Hassan ordered this last June 26: "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.)

John Mayer, a former Sparks Councilman and RTC member, and current Reno Councilmember Jenny Brekhus have advocated for outsourcing to end and bring accountability home.

Teamsters Local 533 and the Reno-Sparks NAACP have long decried non-enforcement of Gov. Sisolak's (and later, President Biden's) mask and distancing mandates by Keolis. RTC's board and management simply ignored.

The union has filed more than 70 health, safety and workplace complaints before federal agencies and actions in U.S. District Court. Keolis has used them to stonewall and delay, typical union busting, pushing toward a strike.

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 our union contract. Why won't RTC let us 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 us that Keolis swept much of the rest directly to corporate profit.

In June, 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.

By then, we may not have a bus system to argue about. Our union contract expires at the same time.

A perfect storm looms in June and only concerted action by elected RTC officials can mitigate the potential damage.

Please contact your five commissioners and advocate for endangered passengers and workers.

Debbie Calkins is the first woman chief executive officer of Teamsters Union Local 533. Gary Watson serves as the union's president.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County is comprised of Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson, Washoe County Commissioners Vaughn Hartung and Bob Lucey; Reno City Councilmembers Oscar Delgado and Neoma Jardon, board chair. Mr. Delgado and his wife both tested positive for COVID-19 in December. He is currently CEO of the Community Health Alliance of Washoe County.

Supporting photos, documents, references and archives may be accessed at

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


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

Back to Teamsters Local 533 War Room LOCAL 533 ARCHIVES Teamsters 533 home page & war room

Teamsters 2014-2016 ARCHIVE

Teamsters 2011-2013 ARCHIVE

Teamsters 2010

Teamsters 2009

2008-09 Teamsters RTC/Ride negotiations
Links to 16-year Teamsters 533 news-photo-strike archives starting with the 1997 UPS strike

Teamsters 2008

Teamsters 2006

Teamsters 2005

Teamsters 2004 Strike Archive

2002 RTC Transit Strike Archive

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