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Bargaining bill advances

CARSON CITY — A bill that would give state employees the right to organize a collective bargaining unit unanimously passed the Assembly Government Affairs Committee on Monday.

The bill is likely to win passage in the Democrat-controlled Assembly, but a similar measure that passed the lower house in 2005 did not get a hearing in the Senate, where Republicans have control.

Assembly Bill 601 saw no opposition during a brief hearing.

“Currently, 25 states, including Louisiana, allow some form of collective bargaining, collective negotiation,” said Oran McMichael, representing the American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees.

“As you have just heard, local government has that right and that ability.”

But Nevada has not granted that right to its own state workers, he said.

Collective bargaining allows for easy and inexpensive resolution of workplace issues, McMichael said.

The state has lost expensive court cases to employee groups over workplace issues, particularly within the Department of Corrections, because no collective bargaining exists, he said.

State employee groups have been trying to win collective bargaining rights for years.

A measure was pushed through the Legislature in 1991 when Democrats controlled both houses, only to see it vetoed by Gov. Bob Miller, a Democrat. His veto was upheld in 1993. A collective bargaining bill has not reached a governor’s desk since.

Assemblyman Jerry Claborn, D-Las Vegas, praised the bill and said it was the right thing to do for state workers.

“And you can count on Jerry Claborn to support your bill,” he said.

Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said he was supporting the bill out of fairness.

“All local governments have the ability to bargain,” he said. “And we’re not willing to grant that to state employees. It is an inequity that we need to address.”

The bill does not require workers to join a collective bargaining unit, nor would they be required to pay a fee or dues.

Other groups supporting the bill included the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and the Nevada Law Enforcement Association.

Gary Wolff, representing the law enforcement association, said the bill would save money because employee groups would not have to come to the Legislature every two years to address issues that could be dealt with more easily in a collective bargaining agreement.

Melissa Subbotin, a spokeswoman for Gov. Jim Gibbons, said that the collective bargaining legislation was being reviewed and that no position has been taken on the measure.

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