(Michael Chamberlain/Nevada Business Coalition) – Think the current recession and plummeting state revenues call for reining in government spending and reforming how the government works? Unions spent over a million bucks in Nevada during the last campaign to make sure that didn’t happen here.
That’s right, folks. Labor unions, including several from outside of the Silver State, handed out over a million dollars in the 2010 campaign to help elect the successful members of the Democratic majorities in the State Assembly and Senate in order to stop reforms.
An analysis by Citizen Outreach CEO Dan Burdish revealed unions doled out more than $820,000 to the victorious Democratic candidates for Assembly and over $210,000 to a mere 5 Democratic members of the Senate. The totals include donations to each house’s Democratic Caucus, which in turn distributes money to Democratic candidates.
In addition to the money given to victorious Democrats, unions also showered $54,367.85 on former state Senator Joyce Woodhouse in her unsuccessful attempt to retain her seat against Republican Michael Roberson.
Wonder why it’s so difficult to get common sense reforms to areas such as collective bargaining and prevailing wage through the Legislature? Because unions dropped a million bucks plus to help put in place the people who will stop these reforms.
Serious abuses of overtime by firefighters were exposed last year. Recently, after their new contract was approved, it was discovered that many government union workers in Clark County continued to receive huge increases in pay during a time when most Nevadans were suffering the ravages of the recession and while the County’s revenues had deteriorated rapidly.
With these and other revelations it would seem that collective bargaining reform would be a no-brainer.
Not so, as the Democratic majority elected by union money has made certain that attempts to change the state’s laws covering collective bargaining for county and municipal employees have gone nowhere.
Even very modest education reforms that at one time received broad support have stalled after teachers unions voiced their opposition.
Unions representing government employees led the pack in contributing to successful Democratic Assembly candidates, with teachers unions topping the list. The Clark County Education Association gave $118,000 while the Nevada State Education Association donated $94,500 to elect Democratic members of the state Assembly. Sandwiched between them was the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which contributed $100,000 to the Assembly Democratic Caucus.
Likewise, efforts to rein in exorbitant pay on prevailing wage projects, which are overly influenced by union contracts, have been blocked by Democrats. Even as the construction industry has collapsed, private sector wages have plummeted and nearly 100,000 construction workers are jobless, prevailing wage laws require payment of wages that, in many cases, amount to more than $100,000 on an annual basis. Attempts to make even minor changes to prevailing wage, such as removing the requirement to pay overtime based upon an 8-hour day rather than a 40-hour week, have been stifled by the majority.
Leading among the individual recipients in the Assembly was Richard “Skip” Daly from Sparks who collected $75,250 from unions, including from several outside Nevada. Richard Carrillo ($40,254), Melanie Kirkpatrick ($37,754), Speaker John Oceguera ($31,654), Debbie Smith ($31,200) and April Mastroluca ($30,507) all collected more than $30,000 each from unions during the campaign. In addition, labor unions contributed more than a quarter-million dollars to the Assembly Democratic Caucus for it to dole out to candidates.
Both the Teamsters’ DRIVE Committee out of Washington, D.C. and AFSCME donated more than $50,000 to the Senate Democratic Caucus to help elect Senate Democrats.
These donations were instrumental in maintaining the large Democratic majority in the Nevada Assembly and smaller one in the Senate, which in turn have been instrumental in stopping reform. They say money can’t buy you love but it can help you get a majority in the Legislature that will promote your agenda.
(Michael Chamberlain is Executive Director of Nevada Business Coalition.)