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Nevada Democrats break backroom labor deal from 2015

Backroom deals usually don’t spill out into the light of day, but legislative Democrats and union bosses are very publicly breaking a bargain they made 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,” Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, said when presenting Senate Bill 356.

“You can’t keep a promise on a bad deal. This was a bad deal.”

That deal was Senate Bill 241, passed in 2015 when Republicans had control of both legislative houses and the governor’s office — a rare opportunity to correct the lavish pay, benefit and retirement packages local government employees receive, thanks to collective bargaining.

The bill eliminated evergreen clauses, which allowed government employees to collect pay raises after a contract expired, and made unions give concessions for union leave time. Union leave time is when you and I pay for union bosses to work for their union, not the government. Remember that the next time someone says government needs to raise property taxes.

“We could have gone farther,” said Sen. Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson. “We worked with the other side. I worked with union leaders across this state on this bill. In fact, just about every major labor organization in this state came to the table (and) publicly supported this bill in committee.”

Republicans should have gone farther. Gov. Brian Sandoval could have made Nevada the next Wisconsin, but he and Roberson cut a deal. Senate Bill 241 received just four nay votes in the Senate and passed the Assembly unanimously.

Liberals and union bosses played them for suckers. As soon as Democrats came back into power — surprise — the deal was off.

“I’m in a unique position because I worked with Sen. Roberson last session with regards to this bill and tried to salvage some of the stuff we had in law, and at the end of the day supported it,” said Rusty McAllister, lobbyist for the AFL-CIO.

He then testified for Senate Bill 356 and for repealing the provisions he claimed to have supported two years ago.

Atkinson claims Senate Bill 241 produced unintended consequences, but what opponents object to — no raises without a contract and crimping union leave time — were the points of the bill.

“No doubt about it, the minority leader is correct. We did make a deal,” Atkinson said. “And no one likes to go back on a deal.”

What a crock. Democrats never intended to keep this deal, and despite a looming Sandoval veto, they couldn’t be happier about breaking it.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Nevada section each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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