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Groups clash over Nevada bargaining reform bill

Updated May 9, 2017 - 3:53 pm

CARSON CITY — Labor groups squared off with business and public sector employers Tuesday over a bill that would roll back collective bargaining reforms passed two years ago when Republicans controlled the Nevada Legislature.

Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, said Senate Bill 356 would fix “unintended consequences” of a law passed in 2015 as Senate Bill 241.

That measure, sponsored by then-Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, eliminated evergreen clauses that allowed contract provisions to continue after expiration while a new agreement is negotiated. It also set timelines for bargaining sessions and required unions make concessions to offset costs for granting employees leave for union business.

Existing law prohibits pay raises if an agreement has expired.

Testifying before the Assembly Committee on Government Affairs, Atkinson said the law meant some local government workers had their pay frozen when a previous contract expired, denying wage increases to which they were otherwise entitled.

Rusty McAllister of the Nevada AFL-CIO said the 2015 law has not achieved its intent.

“We were led to believe that the provisions would speed up contract negotiations, when in reality what they did was slow contract negotiations down,” McAllister said.

“There is no incentive for local governments to hurry,” he said. “Every day they don’t negotiate, they save money.”

Tray Abney, representing the Reno-Sparks and Las Vegas chambers of commerce, said the bill is a “rollback of hard-fought collective bargaining reforms.”

“Frankly, contracts should end,” he said.

He also opposed a proposed union-backed amendment that states if a local government provided leave to employees for union business as of June 1, 2015, bargaining concessions are “deemed to have been made by the employee organization” for past, present and future costs for those activities.

“We’re always concerned about taxpayer employees conducting union business on taxpayer time,” Abney said.

Similar opposition was expressed by Douglas County, Clark County, the Nevada Association of Counties and the Clark County School District.

No action was taken by the committee.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3821. Follow @SandraChereb on Twitter.

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