(Michael Chamberlain/Nevada Business Coalition) – Whenever you see something in Nevada politics that just doesn’t seem to make any sense at all, that defies all rational explanation, chances are the unions are involved somehow.
So if you’re scratching your head wondering why the Regional Transportation Commission would turn away $50 million in savings for no apparent reason, wonder no more.
First Transit has submitted a bid for providing bus service for Clark County that is $50 million lower over the seven-year maximum length of the contract than that of Veolia, which currently supplies the service. Not only that, First Transit’s proposal received a higher rating than Veolia’s using the scoring system the RTC created for this bid.
No brainer, right?
Exactly half of the members of the RTC board refuse to award the contract to First Transit, even as RTC staff has recommended doing so and even as the RTC stands to lose federal funding for not awarding a new contract.
What’s the problem? As evidenced by the strong showing of the transportation union members at meetings in which this item is discussed, organized labor is involved.
First Transit has publicly promised to offer each current worker a job if it takes over the contract. In addition, it has promised to pay workers more than they’re making now. What it hasn’t promised to do is to bring the unions in and part of its proposal indicates that it may be planning to try to keep them out.
Although Veolia’s relationship with the unions hasn’t always been smooth sailing, it is unionized and must continue to negotiate with the unions until the workers vote them out, which is unlikely. First Transit, however, has no obligation to negotiate with the unions and, in fact, unions would be required to go through the process of organizing these workers all over again, including obtaining votes of a majority of each class of workers in organizing elections.
RTC board member and County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who is equally soft when dealing with unions as she is tough with everyone else, has noted that First Transit’s bid contains some savings on employee benefits compared to Veolia. She questioned how this could be possible. While there may be other ways, it’s certainly possible if the company is not unionized and not required to turn over its benefits programs to the unions.
Commissioners who are opposed to giving the contract to First Transit have used all sorts of justifications for their positions and employed all sorts of tactics to avoid doing the right thing. They’ve even tried to change the scoring system they designed for this bid because it produced a result the unions, er, Commissioners disagree with.
The longer they wait, the more money it could potentially cost taxpayers. The RTC needs to award the contract to First Transit. But if it didn’t make sense to you why they haven’t yet, now you know.
(Michael Chamberlain is Executive Director of Nevada Business Coalition.)