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Victor Joecks: The union giveaways cometh in Nevada

Assembly Republican leader Jim Wheeler has an unusual strategy for his minority position: pre-emptive surrender.

Democrats have full control in Carson City. They’re going to reward their union allies with power and costly perks. Gov. Steve Sisolak has already promised to legalize collective bargaining for state workers. Democrats are also eager to roll back the modest collective bargaining reforms Republicans passed in 2015. Democrats pushed through a bill in 2017 repealing those changes, but then-Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed it. Sisolak will sign that bill, and Republicans don’t have the votes to stop him.

They should at least put up a unified front of opposition.

But, Wheeler, R-Gardnerville, is sponsoring a bill that would undermine restrictions on “union leave time,” which was part of the measures Republicans passed in 2015. Union leave time occurs when the government pays union employees to work for their labor organization. A 2012 investigation by my former colleagues at the Nevada Policy Research Institute found union leave time cost Southern Nevada taxpayers more than $4.5 million a year.

The 2015 bill mandated that local governments could provide union leave time only if unions paid for it or gave concessions in negotiations. After the bill went into effect, local governments sought concessions from unions for existing leave time. The unions protested, claiming they should have to give concessions only for future increases in leave time.

Union leave time should be eliminated entirely. If a public employee is conducting union business, the union — not the taxpayers — should be responsible for compensation.

Wheeler’s bill, Senate Bill 103, would clarify that if a union received leave time in 2015, it would be deemed to have already made concessions for leave time that existed when the bill passed. He sponsored a similar bill in 2017, but Sandoval vetoed it, saying it was a “rollback of important, compromise legislation.”

If only the union giveaways stopped there. They won’t. Senate Bill 111, sponsored by Senate Government Affairs, would reduce how much local governments can shield from collective bargaining. Currently, they can exempt three months of expenses. Under this bill, that would drop to two months. Not a great idea, especially when many economists see a recession coming within the next two years.

Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo, D-Las Vegas, wants to indoctrinate government employees about the benefits of union membership. Assembly Bill 108 would require that state agencies pay new employees to sit through a 30-minute presentation by a union official. As if that weren’t enough, Fumo’s bill would require state officials to give unions the name, job title and work contact information of new state employees. Unions would then be allowed to meet with them at their work sites.

If government employees want to join a union, they have the freedom to do so. But state officials shouldn’t be actively tilting the playing field toward unions.

Democrats are going to pass many destructive labor policies this session. Republicans can’t prevent them from doing so, but they also shouldn’t be giving those bills even the slightest bit of support.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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