The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Bus strikes affect two Northern Virginia counties

Transit workers in Prince William County joined Loudoun County Transit workers on a strike against the same contractor

Riders in the Prince William County and Manassas areas will face different routes Wednesday on OmniRide buses because of a work stoppage by drivers. (Prince William County government)
3 min

A bus strike affecting Northern Virginia transit services spread to a neighboring county this week as unionized workers for OmniRide began a work stoppage, hobbling bus service in the state’s second most populous county.

About 150 OmniRide bus drivers went on strike at 3 a.m. Tuesday, saying they are frustrated with wages and benefits they receive from a Prince William County contractor that operates bus and paratransit services in Manassas, Woodbridge and the rest of the county.

Officials with the Teamsters Local 639, the union representing OmniRide workers, said they have been negotiating a new contract since September with Keolis North America, a Boston-based transit private contractor. Loudoun County Transit workers have been on strike for more than a month while locked into a similar labor dispute with Keolis over pay and benefits.

“Teamster drivers are proud of the important transportation services they provide to their communities, but they were forced to take action because Keolis hasn’t been willing to change its illegal behavior,” said Bill Davis, Local 639 secretary-treasurer. “Keolis has been purposefully dragging its feet for six months, refusing to agree to anything at the bargaining table.”

Loudoun County Transit strike to continue through holiday weekend

Keolis spokesman Justin Thompson disputed the account, saying both sides have agreed on most aspects of a new contract. He said the company believes progress is being made in negotiations, which took place as recently as Tuesday.

“We look forward to continuing productive negotiations with our labor partners on a contract that supports the professional and personal development of our valued team members,” Thompson said in a statement.

County transportation officials last week increased funding for OmniRide, which the transit provider said led to another offer on wages.

The strike has led to reduced bus service, with OmniRide shutting down its express commuter bus and Metro Express service. Local routes are were affected. Detailed information on the changes can be found on OmniRide’s website.

Buses in Prince William and Loudoun counties are being operated by nonunion workers or employees who have crossed the picket line, Keolis officials said.

Loudoun County Transit workers have been on strike since Jan. 11, and the union representing them held a “No Heart” Valentine’s Day rally Tuesday at the Loudoun County Government Center, calling on county supervisors to intervene and fine Keolis for missed service.

Loudoun County bus employees are represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689.

“It is crystal clear to all of us that Keolis is trying to crush our members at any cost,” ATU Local 689 President Raymond Jackson said in a statement. “They have consistently dealt with us in bad faith at the negotiating table.”

A day after the strike began, the company offered what it said was its last and best wage proposal, prompting a stalemate that persisted without negotiations until Jan. 27, union officials said.

Union leaders said public pressure led both sides to start negotiating again.

“For over a month now, Keolis has left our members and riders out in the cold,” ATU International President John Costa said in a statement. “The tactics used by Keolis, at the bargaining table and with the County, has been beyond insulting.”

Thompson said Keolis is waiting for a response to the company’s most recent proposal that “builds on our offer,” adding, “we continue to be available to discuss the contract terms with union leadership.”

More details on how the strike is affecting routes can be found at the Loudoun County government transportation website.