Collective bargaining reforms will create a better balance of power

Victor Joecks

Thank you Mr. Chair. For the record, my name is Victor Joecks, and I’m the Executive Vice President of the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

We strongly support AB182. This an excellent bill full of common-sense reforms that will create a better balance of power between taxpayers and elected officials and unionized local government employees. For too long, the balance of power in collective bargaining has been tilted in favor of union officials, as seen by the compensation of local government employees, compared to other state workers and, especially, private-sector employees. This bill offers needed solutions.

First, unions are private organizations. There is no reason that government should use public resources to collect the membership dues of a private organization. This is also an important protection for current union members who wish to leave their unions, but don’t know they can. In the last three years, NPRI has helped over 2,000 union members leave or not join the Nevada State Education Association. Many ofthese individuals have told me that they didn’t realize they could leave until NPRI let them know about that option. Having to write a check, instead of just having dues come out of their paycheck, will help ensure that workers who don’t want to be part of the union understand that union membership is optional and that they have the freedom to either join or not join the union.

Second, a 2012 Nevada Journal investigation found union leave time cost local governments in Southern Nevada over $4.6 million a year. Taxpayer money should be used for public purposes, not to pay union employees to work for their union.

I’m sure you saw the fiscal note on this bill. Unlike most fiscal notes, this fiscal note shows that AB182 would save taxpayers money. The savings to Las Vegas Metro alone would be $4.7 million in the next biennium.

Third, managers should not be unionized. Managers and supervisors are supposed to represent the taxpayers. It makes no sense for them to have common interest with fellow union employees, instead of the public. This is especially important when it comes to principals and administrators in our schools. NPRI submitted a public records request to the Clark County School District in 2013 and found that only two principals had been fired in the last 30 years. During this time, CCSD became one of the worst school districts in the country.

Eliminating the ability of principals and administrators to join a union will improve accountability and the ability of school districts to remove under performing principals, which will help increase student achievement.

Fourth, layoffs should be based on merit, not seniority. No one has a right to a government job. Taxpayers should be able to get the best deal for our money, not pay more for a less productive employee while a younger and more productive employee is released.

Fifth, removing “evergreen” clauses and mandatory binding arbitration will allow the elected representatives of the public to have a chance to rein in the out-of-control compensation of public employees. Let me give you some specific examples. I think we’re all familiar with the financial problems of North Las Vegas, which nearly ran out of money last year.

What happened? The recession hurt North Las Vegas tax collections, but North Las Vegas officials where unable to scale back pay raises previously promised to employees. Eliminating evergreen clauses and mandatory binding arbitration will give elected officials a chance to reform out-of-control employee compensation.

For instance,

That data all comes from, which gets its information directly from government agencies through public records requests.

Driven by increases like these, the compensation of North Las Vegas’ 500 highest paid employees increased by $5,000 from 2012 to 2013, and from 2013 to 2014, it grew by 10 percent. Those employees now make an average of over $200,000 in total compensation.

Sixth, unions shouldn’t have access to emergency reserves. Protecting ending fund balances is necessary to try and prevent another North Las Vegas situation.

Seventh, allowing the public time to review a union contract before its voted on is such an obvious reform that union officials, testifying on SB158, said they’d support a similar concept if it applied to management employees. The public should be allowed to see the bill before we’re stuck paying for it. 

We strongly support these common sense changes to Nevada’s collective bargaining laws.

Victor Joecks is Executive Vice President at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a non-partisan, free market think tank.