Union trade workers protest at Nevada Legislature

CARSON CITY -- About 300 union construction trade workers rallied in front of the Legislature on Thursday against moves by Republican legislators to change the state's prevailing wage laws and cut spending on education.

Eight Democrat legislators spoke to the protesters, advising them to come into the Legislature and make their case to Republicans.

"It's a crisis now," said state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas. "There are still a few swing votes in there. Without raising taxes, without raising revenue, we aren't going to be prosperous again in Nevada."

Paul McKenzie, a leader of the Buildings and Construction Trades Council in Northern Nevada, contended the governor and legislative Republicans want "to balance the budget on the backs of workers and the children in this state."

Members of the Assembly Republican caucus have demanded Democrats agree to change the prevailing wage laws as one of five conditions that must be met before they will support extending $626 million in existing taxes. State Senate Republicans reject making any kind of trades for taxes.

Without their support, the prevailing wage law cannot be changed. McKenzie said in an interview that he realizes moves to change the prevailing wages likely will die, but the protest was an attempt to be vigilant and ensure the Assembly Republican moves will be unsuccessful.

Prevailing wages, which often reflect union wages, are set by the state labor commissioner after surveying contractors in each county.

"On our watch, it is not going to happen," Kihuen said about changing the prevailing wage.

"We aren't going to sit idly by and let the governor take away our rights," added Darren Enns, a leader of the Building and Trades Council in Southern Nevada.

Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, D-Las Vegas, told the protesters that legislators must come up with permanent solutions to Nevada's economic problems.

"The problem is we have an economy based on one industry and a tax base based on one industry," he said. "Let's do the stuff that fixes the problem."

As the Legislature moves toward a June 6 adjournment, almost-daily protests have been conducted outside the Legislative Building.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.