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Union members rally against GOP labor bills outside Legislature

CARSON CITY — Hundreds of union members rallied in front of the Nevada Legislature on Thursday to protest Republican efforts to curb collective bargaining and push public employee retirement reforms.

About 200 demonstrators cheered in the early morning chill when Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, told them to remind lawmakers that voters can remove them from office.

Demonstrators regrouped for another rally in the afternoon, where they were joined by other lawmakers who pledged their support for worker issues and urged them to take turn their anger into action at the ballot box in 2016.

Republicans gained control of both legislative chambers in November for the first time in decades, largely because Democratic voters stayed home on Election Day.

“If you name an issue that helps the middle class, they have a bill to screw it up,” AFL-CIO boss Danny Thompson told the afternoon crowd.

Labor groups are angry over Senate Bill 119, signed into law last week by Gov. Brian Sandoval, that removes school and university construction projects from prevailing wage laws.

“We have to send a message to him and them that we’re not going to stand idly by,” Thompson said. “We’re going to take out our fury at the next election.”

Worker organizations also oppose Assembly Bill 182, which would largely overhaul collective bargaining, and Assembly Bill 190 to change the Public Employees Retirement System from a guaranteed pension system to a hybrid plan with a smaller guaranteed pension and a 401k-type contribution.

The PERS bill was referred to the Ways and Means Committee because of a potential $800 million-a-year price tag to implement the switch.

Rebecca Theim, communications director for the Service Employees International Union Local 1107 in Las Vegas, called AB182 the “union Armageddon bill.”

“This is really a battle of the middle class,” Theim said.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno, the bill would exclude supervisors from collective bargaining and require final contract offers to be made public.

Theim said it also would eliminate binding arbitration and “evergreen” clauses that continue terms if a contract expires while a new agreement is being negotiated.

James Kirkpatrick, a mechanic at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, was among those protesting.

“We’re under attack on collective bargaining, PERS,” he said. “We’re trying to keep jobs for Nevadans.”

Demonstrators carried signs that read “Stop the War on Workers” and “Don’t cut Nevada Jobs.” They marched on the sidewalk from the Legislative Building to the state Capitol chanting, “We are workers under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back.”

The labor protests came a day after immigration activists stormed the office of Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt to demand he rescind Nevada’s joining a federal lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration. Demonstrators on Wednesday shut down U.S. Highway 395, the capital city’s main thoroughfare, for about 90 minutes in front of the Capitol. No arrests were made.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901. Find her on Twitter: @SandraChereb

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