EDITORIAL: Bargain for it

Imagine the outrage from local public employee unions if any Nevada government tried to cut worker pay outside the collective bargaining process. The North Las Vegas City Council tried only to freeze employee pay and block costly pay raises through an emergency declaration, but the city’s unions successfully sued to restore those raises. (Never mind that the city couldn’t afford them.)

Yet the Service Employees International Union Local 1107, which represents about 5,500 Clark County employees, is demanding that county management provide members with a 2 percent pay raise outside the bargaining process — a move that would cost taxpayers about $4.2 million per year going forward.

The union asserts that when members agreed to a 2 percent pay cut in 2011, the contract required the county to restore the reduction upon its reversal for nonunion workers. The county’s nonunion employees received a 2 percent pay raise in August. The SEIU did not receive an immediate pay raise, so the union filed a complaint with the Local Government Employee Management Relations Board.

As reported Wednesday by the Review-Journal’s Ben Botkin, the county says the 2011 agreement was rendered moot by a 2012 collective bargaining agreement, and that the raise would be restored through collective bargaining.

Nonetheless, at a Tuesday County Commission meeting, the county said it would give SEIU members a 2 percent raise if the union dropped the complaint. The county backed off an offer made last year — and rejected by the SEIU — that would have given union members a 2 percent raise and a separate 2 percent merit increase to eligible workers in exchange for the elimination of longevity pay for future county hires.

It’s worth noting that, despite the 2 percent pay cut in 2011, SEIU Local 1107 workers have seen their pay increase by 13.5 percent since July 1, 2008. And the SEIU is demanding a new four-year contract that will boost every worker’s pay by more than 13 percent. Taxpayers can only dream of such largess.

Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak asked SEIU Local 1107 President Martin Bassick if the union would stick with its current contract demands if the county awarded a 2 percent raise outside collective bargaining. Mr. Bassick said the union would reduce its offer if the county honored the 2011 agreement.

That would be a huge leap of faith for the county, considering the financial stakes. SEIU members are already among the highest-paid local government workers in the country. They’d never take a hit outside the bargaining process, so why should taxpayers? The county doesn’t have the resources to be so generous. Settle this matter at the bargaining table.