(Jim Clark) – Nevada is a “right to work” state. Another 22 states have enacted “right to work laws”–statutes that prohibit both employers and unions from entering into any contract that makes either union membership, or for that matter, prohibits union membership, as a condition of new or continued employment. Essentially these laws prohibit “closed shops,” which were outlawed in federal jurisdictions in 1947 by the Taft-Hartley Law. The state of Nevada even went a step further; it prohibits its employees from joining unions. So here in the Silver State the air is clean, the sky is blue and economic competition is alive and healthy, correct? Maybe not so much.
Private industry labor unions must craft membership benefits that offer something of value in order to induce employees to join and pay dues. But things are different with Nevada’s local government agencies. Remember the number 288 because that’s the chapter of Nevada Revised Statutes that requires “every local government employer” to “negotiate in good faith … concerning the mandatory subjects of bargaining … with the designated representatives of the recognized employee organization.”
Translation: Collective bargaining is mandatory for Nevada counties, cities and agencies. And if “good faith” does not produce an agreement, collective bargaining contracts usually provide for mandatory arbitration, meaning that the people we elect do not have the last word on 22 “mandatory subjects” all of which relate to compensation, benefits or working conditions. And when one or more of those 22 “mandatory subjects” gets out of whack, our taxes go up.
Readers will recall recent media reports of the City of Reno being in financial straits, North Las Vegas bordering on bankruptcy and similar stories of municipal financial strain elsewhere in Nevada. This was caused by a combination good, old Chapter 288 and public employees’ political action committees pooling cash to contribute towards the election of councilmen, trustees and commissioners who would “go along to get along.”
Couple that with a reduction in tax revenues caused by the current economic slowdown and you have a recipe for disaster.
Here are some eye opening examples of the results: In 2011, the last full year for which figures are available, all of the ten most highly compensated City of Reno employees (annual pay and benefits ranging from $253,240 to $334,353) were firemen and policemen. The City of Henderson was more diversified with the top ten including the city manager, two firefighters, a policeman and the dog catcher. Total annual compensation ranged from $271,080 to $962,579. In financially struggling North Las Vegas, the top ten included nine police and firefighters plus the personnel director; total compensation ranged from $259,645 to $525,233 (one of those firefighters was also Speaker of the Nevada Assembly and he spent a lot of time in Carson City putting out political fires).
In Clark County, things were a little more subdued. The top ten in annual compensation ranged from $302,589 to $532,748 and included only three firefighters along with district attorneys, judges and department heads. Washoe County was almost penurious compared to Nevada’s cities and Clark County with top ten ranging from $201,760 to $291,288. The group included two physicians, the county manager, several judges and only one policeman (note that the Washoe County Commission has been made up of 4 Republicans and one Democrat for at least the last 20 years).
Oh, yeah . . . Governor Sandoval’s total compensation was $145,052.
Nevada’s local agency spending problem can only be fixed at the State Legislature. Business groups and chambers of commerce have been recruiting candidates committed to fixing these excesses. When someone asks for your vote, ask his or her position on this issue.
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates and has served on the Washoe County & Nevada State GOP Central Committees; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)