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State employees union files lawsuit against Lombardo

Updated September 7, 2023 - 11:04 am

Nevada’s largest state employee union is suing Gov. Joe Lombardo for vetoing a bill that would have funded a cost-of-living pay increase approved by state officials last year.

The local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union filed the lawsuit in a Carson City District Court on Tuesday to force the governor and other executive department officials to honor a 2021 agreement negotiated by the union.

“Our arbitration win is final and binding — and is a contract the state entered, approved, and is obliged to honor,” union member Heike Rüdenauer-Plumber said in a statement. “We continue to demand that Gov. Lombardo honor our collective bargaining rights and agreements made by the state of Nevada.”

The arbitration agreement, which gave executive branch employees a 3 percent cost-of-living pay increase, was approved by the Board of Examiners in March 2022 after months of talks between the executive branch and the union and was settled by an appointed arbitrator.

At the time of the decision, the board was composed of then-Gov. Steve Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske.

But the executive department said it couldn’t disburse the compensation without an appropriation from the Legislature. That appropriation was passed through Senate Bill 440 during the past legislative session, but Lombardo vetoed the bill on the grounds it would create “perverse incentives regarding employee pay.”

“The state would not be well-served by setting a precedent that employees will receive retroactive non-binding arbitration awards during subsequent legislative sessions,” Lombardo wrote in his veto message.

The lawsuit also names the Department of Administration and its director, Jack Robb, and the Nevada Division of Human Resource Management and its director, Mandee Bowsmith.

It also wasn’t the only legal action filed by the union against Lombardo on Tuesday.

AFSCME, represented by Nathan Ringa, filed a prohibited practice complaint against the governor with the state Employee-Management Relations Board.

The complaint alleges Lombardo declined to act in good faith by voting against approving AFSCME’s 2023 collective bargaining agreement during a Board of Examiners meeting in May.

Negotiations between the union and the governor’s designee couldn’t have been in good faith if the governor later votes against that bargaining agreement, the complaint argues.

A spokesperson with the governor’s office declined to comment because of the pending litigation.

Contact Taylor R. Avery at TAvery@reviewjournal.com. Follow @travery98 on X.

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