LAS VEGAS (CN) - Las Vegas police unions sued their own police force, challenging the constitutionality of a new state law that prohibits paid time off for union officials to conduct union business.
Three unions - Las Vegas Police Protective Association Metro, Las Vegas Police Association Civilian Employees, and Las Vegas Metro Police Managers & Supervisors Association - sued Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department on Oct. 7 in Federal Court.
They claim Nevada Senate Bill 241 , which took effect on June 1, constitutes illegal viewpoint discrimination. The law requires unions to repay employers when union officials take paid time off for union activities.
However, "The Legislature does not prohibit paid leaves to work against labor organizations, nor to advocate for nonlabor groups," the complaint states. "The Legislature's purported concern over public spending on advocacy also has not led it to restrict local government spending on lobbying (which amounted to over $3.3 million in the most recent year). This statute represents viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment freedoms of speech and association and the Equal Protection Clause."
The unions say paid time off has been part of their collective bargaining agreements for years. Union officers use it to advocate for their members before government officials, learn members' workplace problems and concerns, and inform and provide counsel for members without having to reimburse employers for the paid time off.
"Without paid leave, the unions' officers face being fired if they tried to spend as much time working for and with employees as they have been spending up until now," the unions say in the complaint.
Nevada's SB 241 will end paid leave for union officials engaged in union business after their collective bargaining contracts expire. The Police Protective Association Civilian Employees contract expired on July 1; the other plaintiffs' contract will expire on July 1, 2016.
The Nevada Legislature wrote the bill at the behest of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, according to the lawsuit. ALEC has written pro-management, anti-labor bills for numerous legislatures. Its board of directors in 2012 wrote a model "Prohibition on Paid Union Activity by Public Employees Act" and sent it to lawmakers nationwide.
Other states have enacted and/or are considering enacting similar laws. In Michigan, Senate Bill 279 would prohibit public schools from paying for time off for teacher union officials to do union work. State Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy, introduced the measure, which awaits action before a committee of the whole.
The Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a conservative, free-market think tank, says Michigan public schools have paid $3 million a year in paid time off for union officials, including schools with budget deficits and for union officials who spend more time doing union work than school work.
"When taxpayers fund release time for government employees, they are paying them to work for a private entity rather than the public," said Jarrett Skorup, a policy analyst at the Mackinac Center. "This scheme costs taxpayers twice - once to pay for the union official's salary and again to pay for a replacement in the classroom."
Las Vegas' police unions want the law declared unconstitutional and its enforcement enjoined.
Neither union officials nor their attorney Andrew Kahn, with McCracken Stemerman & Holsberry, returned calls seeking comment.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officials do not comment on active lawsuits.
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