Apparently, only God herself can come to the aid of local bus passengers and workers. I am thus sending this column to every religious organization in the area. Please dispatch prayers/emanations/ vibrations/meditations for picketing workers at bus garage central across from Wooster High and Reno’s E. 4th Street bus station. Four of six were hit with BB gun rounds from a red pickup in a drive-by last Friday in the downtown casino district. No eyes blinded.
With catatonic local, state and federal governments sitting shiva, 200 or so RTCRide transit system strikers will be having Scroogey gruel for dinner this Thursday.
The foreign-owned managers apparently have no intention of ending Strike 3 anytime soon. Today marks the 16th day of the third strike in four months against the corpulent overlords of the local bus system. (The only other strike came in 2002.)
The Hot August Strike followed by Striketober ran for 35 days, so today marks day 51 of work stoppages not counting the additional day or two that the system always needs to get back to “normal.”
ABNORMAL R US. We will not have normal bus service in Washoe County for the foreseeable future.
Because Regional Transportation Commission Executive Director Bill Thomas singlehandedly waived all cash performance penalties in March of last year, Keolis Transit of Texas, Boston and France can just sit back and clip coupons. Rumble in the asphalt jungle sez they want to starve out the union. They long ago broke their contract. Today, their required 176 drivers are down to about 90. Would you work for a COVID-19 superspreader?
That sound you hear comes from vultures vulching overhead. This is a conservative propagandist’s dream: The current system cannot maintain service, so sell it at bargain basement prices and make it a totally capitalistic. What could go wrong?
Well, a for-profit conglomerate whose forebears transported Jews to the ovens for Hitler is already running the system to ruination, but that won’t stop the buzzards from buzzing.
The malady’s roots lie in an abusive layer cake structure. I have long termed the local Convention Authority, Airport Authority and RTC as Washoe’s unelected empires. All enjoy earmarked funding which automatically insulates them from accountability.
All were created that way to better serve the gambling-industrial complex. I thus wonder why casino overlords have not brought pressure. Oh, yeah. They’re dead.
Once upon a time, a call to John Ascuaga at the Sparks Nugget, Don Carano at the Silver Legacy or Mayor Bob Cashell at Boomtown and Reno City Hall would have brought quick results. The gambling patriarchs of yesteryear enjoyed supreme clout over governments within their fiefdoms. Today, the Carano kids may be so busy with their sprawling Caesars empire that the old hometown merits not an afterthought. None of them enjoy the juice of dear old dad.
RTC is a squishy four-layer pastry. At bottom are workers expected to show up and shut up. Next, the contractor hired to flog the peons. Above the dungeon, RTC staff, which should be running the system, and at far lower cost. A few years back, RTC created a make-word job because they had a staff position that completely duplicated one of the contractor’s. Rather than eliminate and save lots of money, they featherbedded a desk-filler to inflate their budget. (The Barbwire never forgets.)
As rancid prune atop this half-baked bizarro sits the elected five-member RTC, all of whom are direct descendants of Pontius Pilate. Whenever some controversy arises, they simply wash their hands and say “that’s not my department,” a perpetual game of ring-around-the-blame.
Mr. Thomas flails about because he captains a rudderless ship that can drift along just fine – everybody can go to lunch at 11:00 a.m. and leave early on Friday – until stormy weather hits.
What’s that over there? Is that an iceberg?
ONLY the Teamsters and Reno Councilmember and mayoral candidate Jenny Brekhus have been standing for the least among us every step of the way. If the drivers and support workers did not have the union, Keolis abuses of passengers and employees (like continuing refusal to take COVID-19 safety precautions) would go all but unnoticed. Frontline workers like casino and low-wage employees, the very young, the very old, the poor and homeless, the sick, the mentally and physically disabled – all would have no power. (Business as usual on the High Desert Plantation.)
Is the money there to pay for what the workers want? (Fair wages, health insurance and benefits.)
Hell, yes. Plenty. Since 1982, every time you buy a car or a flower, you pay a sales tax, part of which goes to support the bus system.
Strike 3 was a direct result of Keolis making a “last-best-final-non-negotiable” demand for a “pay raise” two or three percentage points below inflation. In other words, come back to work and take a 36-month cut in wages.
Why? Executive egos, bragging rights, “win-winwin” no matter what.
Keolis is looking for a scalp in a small market where you need not spend much money. That’s why we’ve always been a good product test market. We’re cheap.
However, an inexpensive win against the mighty Teamsters becomes a calling card to sell your services in a myriad of markets, liberal or conservative.
Alas and alack, screweth thee not with the Teamsters.
THE STRIKES HEARD ‘ROUND THE WORLD have generated heavyweight attention. This month, outgoing International President James Hoffa announced “Teamsters Local 533, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Amalgamated Transit Union will begin engaging in concerted activity [translation: union organizing] directed at roughly 3,000 transit authorities and other government entities that maintain public transit operations in the United States.”
His just-elected successor, Boston’s Sean O’Brien, said “We’ve got to negotiate the strongest contracts possible so that we can take it to workers at Amazon and point to it and say this is the benefit you get of being in a union. If we’re negotiating concessionary contracts and we’re negotiating substandard agreements, why would any member, why would any person want to join the Teamsters union?” (NYTimes Nov. 20, 2021)
As Sherlock Holmes said to Dr. Watson, the game’s afoot. The largest private sector union in the country (1.4 million+ members) against a 16-country European vampire. Dr. Van Helsing, call your office and pack your wooden stakes.
While the minions of officialdom sit warm in their castles, their workers risk more violence on the picket lines. May Keolis soon join Mr. Thomas ($220,000 a year!) in the unemployment line- where they will probably apply for more federal assistance.
HELP THE FAMILIES of workers who have risked their lives (dozens hospitalized with COVID-19 over the past two years). Please send checks to United Labor Agency of Nevada, 1201 N. Decatur Blvd. Suite 106, Las Vegas, NV 89108; Attn: Teamsters Keolis Strike. You may also donate online at the web edition of this column at NevadaLabor.com/
I ask all people of faith and their organizations to push Gov. Sisolak and every level of government with which they are acquainted to take the part of the passengers and workers for whom there is no room in the inn.
Happy Thanksgibleting to you and yours anyway.
Take care of each other and be careful out there.
Be well. Raise hell. / Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Andrew Quarantino Barbano is a 52-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com, SenJoeNeal. org and MississippiWestNV.org/ Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.