(Michael Chamberlain/Nevada Business Coalition) – The Clark County Commission today bowed to the wishes of local trade unions as it voted to appeal a court’s decision prohibiting it from using an agreement it had negotiated with those unions on a local construction project.
The unanimous vote of the Commission will delay the start of the project, which all agree is urgent. But apparently not so urgent that it was worth opposing the will of the unions.
Last month District Court Judge Jerry Wiese prevented the County from awarding the contract for the Clark County Detention Center Phase I remodel project under the terms of the Project Labor Agreement the County had negotiated with the unions. Judge Wiese ruled the PLA violated Nevada’s competitive bidding laws by unfairly favoring unions at the expense of non-union workers and contractors.
A PLA is an agreement between unions and project owners, often governments, that govern a construction project and that contractors are forced to agree to as a condition of obtaining the contract. It dictates that both union and non-union contractors must hire workers from union halls, contribute to union benefit funds, pay union wages and follow union work rules while generally prohibiting strikes and work stoppages due to jurisdictional disputes between unions.
A handful of people testified about the PLA at the hearing today, all but one in favor of the PLA. However, not a single argument in favor actually dealt with the PLA.
Every single comment supporting the PLA involved, instead, prevailing wage, which has absolutely nothing to do with the PLA. This project, as are all County projects over $100,000, will be a prevailing wage project with or without a PLA.
In April, the Nevada Business Coalition and the Associated Builders and Contractors of Nevada had sued the County to prevent it from using this particular PLA on the Detention Center project.
The County could have chosen to award the contract without the PLA, allowing construction to begin. It also could have chosen to remove the offending provisions from the PLA.
However, neither of those options would have pleased the unions because contractors would have been free to use unlimited non-union workers and would not have been forced to pay into union benefit funds, even for workers who will never collect those benefits.
The County Commission today opted to take the matter to the Nevada Supreme Court rather than oppose the unions and accept the decision of the District Court.
(Michael Chamberlain is Executive Director of Nevada Business Coalition.)