Local sues over Washoe Bus System COVID-19 dangers

On September 11, Local 533 took legal action in the federal court system, filing for injunctive relief and fast-track arbitration to compel the Washoe County Regional Transportation bus system to enforce Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s (D) mask mandate.

“This is an extreme measure because this is an extreme emergency and no one has responded all year,” said Teamsters Local 533 President Gary Watson.

“Our patience evaporated when we learned that a passenger was refused boarding because his pants were down but maskless passengers were allowed on the bus,” Watson said.

“An epidemic of barefaced passengers rides every day, some on dangerously overcrowded buses. One rider even spit at a driver. Bus system management has tried to have it both ways, posting some signs saying that masks are ineffective and others stating that masks are mandatory, all the while threatening drivers with firing if they try to enforce the Governor’s legal order,” Watson added.

“Hardworking Teamsters are both stressed by the dangerous conditions and distressed by their employer’s reckless disregard for safety. The same goes for many passengers who have said so to our drivers,” he asserted.

“The federal lawsuit states that the transit system’s foreign-owned management corporation is contractually and legally bound to enforce basic safety practices,” Watson noted. “Instead, the overseas for-profit jobber has perverted the Americans With Disabilities Act in order to proceed under the fictitious and feckless assumption that everyone without a mask is somehow disabled and can’t wear one.”

“Newly-hired Regional Transportation Commission Executive Director Bill Thomas has appeared on paid advertising asserting that the Governor’s mandate is being enforced. But his managers are telling our drivers that anyone without a mask must be allowed to board or they risk disciplinary action,” Watson noted.