lockout ends, talks resume
Workers take case directly to elected Regional Transportation
RENO (Friday, 8-23-2002) Locked-out members of Teamsters Local
533 expressed guarded optimism after Thursday afternoon's surprise announcement
that the Reno area bus lockout has been unilaterally called off by management.
"We've won this battle, but we haven't won the war," Local 533
secretary-treasurer Lou Martino told workers as they took down
picket lines at the downtown Reno CityCenter bus transfer station in the
heart of the casino district.
At 12 noon on Friday, Martino will re-enter talks with Transit Management
of Washoe, Inc., (TMW), the British-owned firm which provides three executives
to run the public bus system for $27,019 per month.
Union members will nonetheless press forward, taking their case directly
to the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC) on Friday
morning. Among other items, they will read into the record a recent letter
to RTC Executive Director Greg Krause from Danny Thompson,
Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO.
"RTC is putting forward an advisory question (WC-2) on the November
ballot seeking state legislation for the RTC to obtain additional funding
for transportation projects in the Truckee Meadows," Thompson wrote.
"If approved, this will result in increased fuel taxes, increase
the regional road impact fee and increase the sales tax by one-quarter
of one percent to support public transportation," Thompson added.
A Reno Gazette-Journal/ KRNV
TV-4 poll released earlier this month showed Washoe County voters opposed
to the tax question by a landslide 63- to 33-percent margin.
"The 165,000 members of the Nevada State AFL-CIO...cannot support
any increase in funding or increases in taxes that would be paid to the
RTC against the striking workers. I am writing to ask you to use all legal
remedies to solve this dispute and to stop replacing Nevada workers with
out of state workers with no tie to this community," Thompson stated.
The umbrella labor federation will vote on a resolution to oppose Question
WC-2 at its annual convention which begins Monday in Las Vegas. Last June,
Nevada State AFL-CIO opposition to a similar November ballot question
in Clark County provided the deciding factor in ending a six-week bus
strike in populous southern Nevada.
"The Regional Transportation Commission contractually retains great
power over Transit Management of Washoe despite the hands-off public posture
of four of its five elected members," Martino said.
The commission's regular monthly meeting has scheduled no specific agenda
item regarding the strike/lockout.
Commissioner Dave Aiazzi, a Reno city councilman, has lobbied his
colleagues to call a special meeting about the lockout, but has received
no support from other board members. Only Aiazzi has expressed any sympathy
for the plight of theworkers.
Last week, Aiazzi said that "(transit manager) Mike Steele
should have come to the commission and said we are at an impasse
What would you like to do, stay at impasse or give me more money to bargain
After negotiations broke off last Friday, Martino said "I am very
disappointed, we should have had a deal today. I seriously thought we
could reach agreement." Martino accused Steele of stalling.
"He's playing with the numbers and stalling by making information
requests about medical insurance when we had a representative here a couple
of weeks ago when those questions could have been asked, but they were
not," Martino asserted.
Last week, the union brought forward a health care proposal which could
save $80,000 in the first year, a step which could provide a key to settling
"Other dollars could be saved using the budget they've got for the
first year by reducing the number of hours budgeted for the full time
drivers to work, the number of hours for the extra board operators and
the part-time employees," Martino said.
During the lockout, Martino offered several times to bring the workers
back by extending the previous contract. A federal mediator ruled in June
that the agreement expired June 11. Management had earlier insisted that
the old contract should remain in effect until next year. The union has
filed federal charges of illegal and unfair labor practices over the company's
attempt to extend the contract without negotiation.
The expired contract contains a no-strike/no-lockout clause. Last week,
Steele wanted the contract extended six months, Martino offered one month.
The workers will apparently return to work with no such stipulation in
Management has offered a two percent annual pay increase, below the rate
"During the first seven months of 2002, the CPI-U (Consumer Price
Index for Urban Consumers) rose at a 2.5 percent seasonally adjusted annual
rate," according to the U.S.
Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics website.
If that rate were to hold for the term of a three-year contract, inflation
would spike at 7.5 percent. One dollar today would be worth 92.5 cents
RTC/TMW's offer of a two percent per year raise, or six percent over three
years, means a real-dollar pay cut of 1.5 percent over three years.
A budget presented to the RTC Citizens Advisory Committee on August 21
projected an annual increase in wages and benefits at two percent per
year all the way through 2007.
Implementation of the budget would leave the drivers, dispatchers and
support workers at 1995 pay levels for 12 years, when adjusted for inflation.
"We will not be intimidated by this effort to break the union,"
driver Norma Alexander wrote to RTC Executive Director Krause on
Largely using strikebreakers imported from other states, the system has
seen an increasing number of accidents, even at a reduced level of service.
Replacement drivers crashed the system's brand new expando ("articulated")
bus at Citicenter soon after the strike began.
Yesterday, a Citifare bus was involved in a head-on collision with a vehicle
at Locust and Stewart streets in Reno. At least one of the auto's passengers
was transported to a hospital. Union members shot viedotape at the scene.
The Reno Police Department did not return calls for additional information.
The Regional Transportation Commission meets at 9:00 a.m. PDT at the RTC
garage and office complex, underneath US 395 South between Plumb Lane
and Villanova Drive. Those wanting to attend must enter from the northeast
side at Villanova and the 395 frontage road. The building stands next
to Wooster High School, one block west of Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
Negotiations begin at 12 noon at John Ascuaga's Nugget Hotel-Casino in
to CitiStrike02 War Room