Nevada Legislature: Unions worry over collective bargaining opt-out bill

Nevada unions are crying foul over a Republican-backed proposal to allow local governments and municipalities to opt out of collective bargaining.

Assemblyman Erv Nelson is sponsoring AB280 and testified for the bill Tuesday in the Assembly Government Affairs Committee.

The bill would allow local governments and school boards to opt out of future collective bargaining agreements with employee unions. Nelson said current agreements would still be honored and governments would need to provide written notice to unions before opting out.

Government agencies would then set salaries and benefits for public workers through an ordinance, which would be done during public meetings.

Nelson said union officials shouldn’t have the final say in how government contracts are created and that the bill would give elected officials more control over their budgets. He said collectively bargained seniority rules hurt state workers during the recession.

“It was heartbreaking so see so many young women and men lose their jobs because there were not enough reductions in salaries and in benefits to meet the reductions in revenues,” he said during the hearing.

Democrats on the committee, including Assemblywoman Amber Joiner, D-Reno, said they were concerned that eliminating collective bargaining would hurt employee retention because of a lack of protections over salaries and benefits. Joiner said the state already faces a teacher shortage and the potential of cutting benefits could hurt the state.

“We lose people constantly to private industry,” she said. “How do you propose we retain and recruit teachers when we already have a huge teacher shortage, and we know teachers leave after three to four years if we cannot guarantee them a certain level of benefits?”

Law enforcement lobbyist Ron Dreher testified against the bill and said he feared that the potential of cutting benefits would hurt retention and discourage better-qualified candidates for state jobs.

“You can get a cop for a buck an hour, but you get what you paid for,” he said.

Another Republican-backed bill that opponents dubbed “Union Armageddon” is scheduled for a committee vote on Wednesday. Assemblyman Randy Kirner is the sponsor of AB 182 which prevents collective bargaining agreements from stopping layoffs during a budget crisis and eliminates seniority from being considered in layoffs.

The committee took no action on the bill.


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