County approves labor deal for renovation that prompted lawsuit

A $30 million jail renovation will be done using a controversial measure designed to foster union participation.

Clark County commissioners on Tuesday approved a "project labor agreement" for renovating the basement section of the county detention center's north tower. The agreement has drawn opposition from trade groups that contend it discriminates against nonunion contractors and adds labor costs.

Citizen Outreach Inc., a coalition of industry groups, filed a lawsuit against the county this month for adding the labor agreement to the jail project.

The group claims the agreement will lead to unfair bidding because it favors union shops. A hearing is scheduled for District Court on May 9.

"The PLA discourages competition, and encourages favoritism while wasting public funds," the complaint states.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigilani, a strong labor advocate, said the lawsuit could delay this job-creating project, which is scheduled to go out to bid in late June.

"It's unfortunate," Giunchigliani said.

These agreements prevent unrest that can delay work, and they ensure skilled local labor is used, she said.

But an industry representative countered that the agreements require nonunion contractors to use some union workers and pay pricier benefits.

"It has the potential for Nevada workers to lose their benefits," said Warren Hardy, a consultant with the Associated Builders and Contractors.

Hardy said his group is considering joining Citizens Outreach in the lawsuit.