Public Workers’ Unions Fight Nevada County

RENO, Nev. (CN) – Seven public employees unions, including attorneys, nurses and sheriff’s officers, claim a new Nevada law unconstitutionally impairs contracts by allowing the state’s second-largest county to remove evergreen clauses from their collective bargaining agreements.
     The Washoe County Employees Association et al. sued Washoe County on Aug. 27 in Washoe County Court. Washoe County’s seat is Reno.
     The state is not a defendant, though the unions challenge Senate Bill 241 , which Governor Brian Sandoval signed into law on June 1. Sandoval, a Republican is a former federal judge, former state attorney general, and former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission.
     SB 241 states that collective bargaining agreements expire at the end of the negotiated term. Upon passage, Washoe County began removing language in contracts “that would automatically renew the collective bargaining agreement if successor agreements had not been reached by the expiration date negotiated by the parties,” the seven unions say.
     They call SB 241 an unconstitutional impairment of contracts, specifically, the clauses in their members’ contracts that keep the agreements in force if new agreements are not worked out in time.
     “It was illegal to propose all terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreement would end or thereafter be ‘null and void’ in the event a successor agreement was not reached by June 30, 2016,” the unions say.
     “We’re scared if our contract expires, we’re at the mercy of the administration for any changes in our agreement,” said Roy Stralla, president of the Washoe County Public Attorney’s Association.
     Since Stralla joined the union in 1996, he says, there always has been an evergreen clause in the agreements and it has been used frequently.
     “Often, we are not finished with negotiations by the time the contract is expired,” Stralla said. “Especially in our career field, we are on tight schedules and it is hard to make time to negotiate new agreements.
     The plaintiffs are the Washoe County Employees Association, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Deputies Association, the Washoe County Nurses Association, the Washoe County Supervisory Nurses Association, the Washoe County District Attorney Investigators Association, the Washoe County Supervisory District Attorney Investigators Association and the Washoe County Public Attorneys Association.
     They seek declaratory judgment that SB 241 violates their contracts in place, and violate the state and federal constitutions.
     Looking for a possible bright spot, Stralla said he hopes that if the law stands it might lead to longer term contracts.
     The workers are represented by Michael Langdon.

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