(Sean Whaley/NPRI) – A Nevada think tank investigation shows that Clark County taxpayers are contributing $4.6 million a year to fund union activities by local government workers.
The results of the investigation by Steven Miller and Kyle Gillis of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, published today in the Nevada Journal, identifies almost 70,000 hours of paid leave time made available each year by local governments to public employees to conduct union business.
Although top union officials are employees of the county or city governments, paragraphs in the bargaining agreements specify that those employees are to be released from their duties on behalf of taxpayers to instead work – while continuing to be paid by taxpayers – for private organizations, their labor unions.
The costs to taxpayers was calculated by reviewing 37 municipal labor contracts, contracts that are not easily accessible by the public.
“People are really going to be stunned when they realize that governments in Clark County, I mean the same governments that are facing fiscal challenges, are giving millions upon millions of dollars every year to union employees to work for the union,” said Victor Joecks, NPRI communications director. “I mean government certainly has a role in providing schools and public safety and roads, but it doesn’t have a role in subsidizing a private organization; doesn’t have a role in subsidizing these labor unions.
“Not only that, I think that it’s a perfect example of how kind of the union contracts with collective bargaining get out of control,” he said. “Year after year of collective bargaining, when you are only ratcheting up, I mean leads to this kind of excess and this kind of waste.”
The investigation found that the most lucrative contract is between the City of Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, which receives over $1 million in tax dollars and 15,500 hours a year for union members to perform union work. Las Vegas also pays its Metro Supervisors Association and its Police Protective Association, Civilian Employees, Inc., more than $430,000 a year and $300,000 a year, respectively, for union employees to do union work.
The investigation also found that the Clark County firefighters union received well over $400,000 in taxpayer funds for union business, and North Las Vegas provided over $600,000 for union firefighters to carry out union work. The Service Employees International Union Supervisors and SEIU Non-Supervised Employees took over $195,000 a year and over $300,000 a year, respectively, from Clark County taxpayers, for union activities.
The Nevada Journal article notes that in March, Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak called for the county firefighters union, rather than taxpayers, to pay for union leave.
“The taxpayer is paying for the county to represent the county and is also paying for the union to represent the union,” he told the Las Vegas Sun.
Recently, when asked by NPRI about the new contract continuing its open-ended language, Sisolak said he would have “preferred a cap” on the hours, indicating that lack of a fixed number of hours has been a factor in the over-use of leave time.
“I do support collective bargaining,” Sisolak told the Nevada Journal, “but you do have to find ways to save money and find what’s essential for taxpayers.”
Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani disagreed with Sisolak on the paid-leave issue. She said paid union leave is used to offset other concessions, such as freezes on pay.
“Collective bargaining allows both sides to sit down and decide what’s best for the county,” said Giunchigliani. “Union leave has always been included in contracts in both public and private sector unions.”
Union officials did not respond to requests for comment by NPRI.
Joecks said one simple answer to the issue is getting legislation passed banning the practice. But it is just one more example of why collective bargaining should be banned entirely for local government employees, he said.
The practice is also unconstitutional, Joecks said. Article 8, Section 9 of the state constitution says the state shall not donate or loan money to corporations except those created for educational charitable purposes. Since cities and counties are creations of the state, it applies to them as well, he said.