(Michael Chamberlain/Nevada Business Coalition) – So who do you think runs things here anyway?
As he directed the legal counsel of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to file a brief supporting Clark County in a case at the Nevada Supreme Court, LVCVA Chairman and County Commissioner Tom Collins stated, “We’ve got a new judge in town and he just got elected and he’s still learning some of the rules, in my opinion.”
What exactly are those “rules”? Could one of them be not to mess with the unions?
Collins, who once made his living as a union electrician, has been a friend of the unions for quite some time.
He has participated in union-led demonstrations and protests of non-union companies while on the County Commission. These include appearing as “Tom Collins, Commissioner, Clark County, Nevada” in a union-produced video that attacked a local non-union contractor that had been targeted by the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters. An article at the time found at least one expert who believed this type of participation by an elected official was unprecedented.
[T]hough it’s common for politicians to tacitly support unions by, say, refusing to give speeches inside ballrooms at nonunion hotels or declining to cross picket lines, [labor expert and dean of the Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University in New Jersey Karen] Boroff said she hasn’t ever heard of a politician appearing in an ad siding with a union in a specific dispute.
Big Labor is well aware that Collins is a friend of theirs. During his most recent reelection campaign in 2008, he collected over $80,000 from organized labor, garnering far more than any other Commission candidate in an election cycle in which unions were extremely active. This total included $25,000 from union offices located outside of Nevada.
Even after revelations of Clark County firefighters making in excess of $200,000 per year while other Nevadans were struggling, according to a contemporary story in the Review-Journal,
Commissioner Tom Collins defended firefighters, saying people don’t complain about how much a firefighter earns when it’s their lives being saved. During medical calls, firefighters are often exposed to contagious diseases, he said.
“They should be applauded and not criticized in the media,” Collins said.
Collins did later vote to freeze merit pay for Fire Department battalion chiefs. But he was the only Commissioner to vote against the current firefighter contract, which contained wage cuts and was approved by an arbitrator after the County presented evidence of widespread abuse of sick leave and overtime by firefighters. Collins justified this by saying he would rather see benefits, such as longevity pay, cut instead of wages. However, most of these benefits don’t create future pension and other obligations on the part of taxpayers as higher base pay does.
During the dispute over the northern beltway project involving non-union Fisher Sand and Gravel and union Las Vegas Paving, Collins was accused of pro-union bias by representatives of Fisher. At one point a judge ordered Collins to abstain from voting on the contract.
At the Commission meeting in which the Detention Center contract was last discussed, Collins was the only member to oppose stripping the union-favoring Project Labor Agreement from Phase 1. He also attempted to goad Warren Hardy, who was representing the Associated Builders and Contractors, an organization composed of non-union companies, into saying non-union contractors were more likely to try to skirt rules. Hardy didn’t take the bait.
It’s not a surprise that Collins would take a stand supporting unions. After all, the sun did rise in the East.
(Michael Chamberlain is Executive Director of Nevada Business Coalition.)