After the expiration of a three-year contract in June, the Teamsters pushed for a new agreement that would address new work rules, reduction in number of months employees could take for leave of absence and switching to a full holiday bus schedule on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
"I guess I walked out on them" said Mark Tracy, secretary/treasurer for Teamsters. "They came in with the same last, best and final offer as before. ... There was no middle ground, no changes, to honestly and validly negotiate. We tried to make changes and alleviate changes and they weren't even interested."
RTC's "last, best and final" offer was made June 9. The union took a vote on June 15 in which employees voted 130-2 against the proposed contract RTC.
"They claimed I must have misrepresented," Tracy said.
Mike Steele, general manager of RTC Ride, said they proposed a contract to the workers that was mostly unchanged with the exception of two provisions, but the Teamsters did not agree with the final package.
"Work rules are important to us in that we want our operators to be safe while operating our buses," he said. "We want them to come to work on time and on a regular basis, but we still feel their economic demands are not reality in light of today's economy."
Tracy said his next step will be to meet with the National Board of Labor Relations this morning and press charges for failure to negotiate in good faith and for surface bargaining. He said RTC came to the table and "danced in circles and [didn't] really negotiate."
If the labor board accepts the charges, Tracy said, the RTC will have to stand before a federal judge and could face fines or other punishments.
"At the very least," he said, "they have the right to defend themselves."
Tracy said the union will also consider a strike, if necessary, although he and Steele agree that would not be in the best interest of the two sides or the public.
Wages were also in the discussion. Teamsters sought a 15 percent wage increase over three years with additional increases to their pension and medical benefits.
Transit Management of Washoe, the contractor that operates RTC Ride, offered a 9 percent wage increase over three years in the contract that expired June 11.
Steele said RTC would consider meeting with the union in the future and that it has no effect on bus service at this time.
"We are always willing to meet with them," Steele said. "Right now the contract has expired and we're continuing to operate."
Teamsters Union Local 533 represents more than 150 RTC coach operators and dispatchers.