Judge denies request to reverse Clark County union takeover

Updated June 9, 2017 - 4:25 pm

A federal judge this week rejected a Service Employees International Union member’s request to immediately restore local control of the union’s Nevada chapter.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon on Wednesday ruled that the parent union’s takeover of local operations likely would not cause irreparable harm to SEIU Local 1107.

Lawyers from both sides argued whether the International union’s dismissal of former chief negotiator Peter Nguyen was a catastrophic bane or much-needed boon to the Local union’s ongoing contract negotiations with Clark County.

Attorney Michael Mcavoyamay, who represents plaintiff and Local member Raymond Garcia, posited that the International’s decision to fire Nguyen and implement a trusteeship had silenced the voice of the Local.

“The trusteeship is not permitting the Local members to negotiate the contract,” Mcavoyamay argued.

International president Mary Kay Henry replaced Nguyen with Las Vegas attorney Michael Urban, who negotiated the union’s current contract with the county.

That deal expires June 30. If it is allowed to expire, SEIU-affiliated county employees will not be granted wage and benefit increases until a new agreement is in place.

Mcavoyamay argued that contract negotiations would be delayed with Urban in charge, that the attorney charged too much for his services and that it was vital for Nguyen to guide negotiations.

SEIU International attorney Jonathan Cohen argued that since Urban took over negotiations, the union and county have reached tentative agreements on 22 of the 28 contract articles opened for negotiation. Negotiations had reached an impasse with Nguyen as the lead negotiator.

Cohen noted the union’s contract team includes 22 members who were voted into their positions by fellow union members. Nguyen was given his position by former local president Cherie Mancini, whom Henry removed from office in late April.

“No one voted for Peter Nguyen to be their chief negotiator. … It is insulting for them to think Peter Nguyen is the sole architect of that collective bargaining,” Cohen said.

Gordon ruled that potential damages to the Local’s finances did constitute irreparable harm because it could seek restitution from the International. He also said that it would be up to unionized employees to approve a new contract with the county.

“If they don’t like the deal Urban cuts, they vote against the deal,” Gordon said.

The judge also declined a request by Mcavoyamay to order the lawsuit back to state court.

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

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