Nevada senators work to undo 2015 bargaining law

CARSON CITY — A Nevada Senate committee heard a bill Monday to undo a collective bargaining law that employee groups complained unfairly harms public workers.

Senate Bill 356, sponsored by Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, and other Democratic legislators, seeks to repeal provisions of a Republican-backed measure signed into law last session.

“In a nutshell, this bill turns back the clock on collective bargaining to the way it was in 2013 before the enactment of Senate Bill 241,” Atkinson told members of the Senate Government Affairs Committee.

A key provision of SB356 reinstates an “evergreen” clause that keeps expired collective bargaining agreements in place while a new contract is negotiated.

One unintended consequence of the existing law, Atkinson and others said, is that workers who were due for a raise after a contract expired didn’t get them, causing costly negotiations and settlements. Others received promotions but were denied additional pay.

About 1,600 Clark County workers were caught in the quagmire after the law took effect in June 2015 according to testimony. Rusty McAllister, a former Clark County firefighter now representing the Nevada State AFL-CIO, said he supported the Republican bill in 2015 because he believed it would speed up the bargaining process.

Instead, he said, it has had the opposite effect because employers have no incentive to push negotiations.

Tray Abney, representing the Las Vegas Metro and Reno-Sparks chambers of commerce, opposed SB356 and any attempt to reinstall evergreen clauses to union contracts.

“We do think a contract should end,” Abney said. “It doesn’t mean they stop being paid.” But Abney conceded the law could be tweaked to account for when someone gets a promotion or a new job title.

“I think that’s something that does need to be talked about,” he said.

Local government representatives said aspects of the law have sped up negotiations and urged committee members not to dismantle existing law.

No immediate action was taken by the committee.

Contact Sandra Chereb at Follow @SandraChereb on Twitter.

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