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Loudoun County Transit strike to continue through holiday weekend

Labor officials say the contractor running the bus system declined to provide future negotiation dates after both sides reached an impasse this week

Workers participate in a strike over pay and benefits outside the Keolis building on Friday in Leesburg. Keolis is the contractor that runs the bus service in Loudoun County. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

A strike of Loudoun County Transit bus operators, mechanics and other workers is expected to continue through the holiday weekend, labor officials said Friday.

About 140 unionized employees of the public bus and paratransit system in Loudoun County have been on strike since Wednesday while seeking a new contract with more pay and benefits. The workers have been in negotiations with Keolis, a county contractor that operates the transit system.

Union officials say Loudoun County Transit workers are the lowest-paid transit employees in the Washington region. Keolis officials countered that the company recently boosted pay, while its latest contract offered more money and benefits.

The bus system serves residents in the wealthiest county in the nation, operating Monday through Saturday. The system also operates commuter buses between the county and Rosslyn, Crystal City, the Pentagon and the District. A 21-route Silver Line Bus service connects riders to Metro, which opened three Metro stations in Loudoun County in November.

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On Friday, the system operated a reduced schedule and did not run Silver Line buses or commuter buses. The county’s transportation department said Silver Line connection and commuter bus service also won’t operate on Monday, which is the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

Service on Metro’s Silver Line rail system isn’t affected.

In addition to seeking more pay and benefits, union officials said the strike is also the result of workers’ retirement and health packages being slashed in April 2021, shortly after the county gave Keolis, a Boston-based transit operator, a five-year contract.

“The county is not commenting on the labor action because it is an issue that must be resolved between Keolis and its members,” Loudoun County spokesman Glen Barbour said.

Loudoun officials said they don’t know how long the strike could last. County transportation officials are making decisions on which routes and schedules to run on a daily basis based on driver availability, said Mary Frances Forcier, a county spokeswoman.

She said the county is hopeful the two sides will complete negotiations soon so full transit services can be restored.

On Thursday, Keolis presented labor negotiators with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, the union representing the workers, with what the company said was its best and final offer. Union negotiators rejected the offer, and when union leaders tried to set up future meetings, they said, Keolis refused to provide any dates.

“Keolis’ contract offer was insulting and shameful,” ATU Local 689 president Raymond Jackson said in a statement. “This company continues to treat our members with disrespect and disdain and continues to bargain in bad faith.”

Keolis officials disputed Jackson’s account. The company said a number of agreements have been reached on a new contract, while the company said workers were given raises in June that ranged from between 10 percent and 30 percent. The Keolis offer included bonuses of $2,000, a 10 percent retroactive wage increase for all employees, a 5 percent company 401(k) match — up from 2 percent — and an additional work holiday.

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“Keolis is committed to providing safe and reliable service for our passengers who rely on transit,” company spokesman Justin Thompson said in a statement. “We look forward to finalizing a contract that supports the well-being of our employees and their families with comprehensive benefits and competitive wages.”

About 150 workers have been picketing in shifts outside the Loudoun County Transit complex daily between 3 a.m. and 4 p.m. Union officials said Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), the chair of the county’s Board of Supervisors, and supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian) joined picketers to pledge support on Friday.