Sheriff Doug Gillespie is hoping the Legislature in coming months will authorize an already-voter-approved quarter-cent increase in the sales tax to generate more revenue for the budget-stricken Metro Police Department.
But he’s got a sales job on his hands: A survey shows that officers in his department have received, on average, the biggest pay raises among public employees in Clark County over the past five years.
And now Gillespie wants more money? read more…
With our various levels of government grappling with revenues falling short of expenses, there is a long overdue focus being put on the state of government labor. The recent Chicago teachers strike should be seen as an example of the excesses of government unions. Reporting lumps all unionization into one category, and there is no distinction expressed between private and public unions. Public sector unions are different from private unions in that they have no “Free Market” competition to keep their demands in line. In addition, the cozy relationship between the Democratic Party and public unions create a conflict of interest for elected officials.
In the private sector there are market restraints on what a union can demand. If UPS (union) workers demand too much in compensation as to render their company non-competitive with FedEx (non-union), they will lose business. This puts a “real world” restraint on what these unions can demand in terms of compensation and benefits. Corporations can go out of business, which obviously would hurt the union employees. GM & Chrysler notwithstanding, this market mechanism works well. Government has no competition, and is in effect a monopoly in terms of the services that it supplies. Therefore, there is no similar control placed upon public sector union demands. If government workers go on strike, where else can consumers go to get their drivers licenses?
With the lack of market forces, taxpayers must rely exclusively upon management to say no to costly demands. The managers who are sitting on the other side of the negotiating table are elected officials. There is a political party, however, that is beholden to the very government unions they are supposed to be negotiating with. The Democratic Party receives an overwhelming amount of money in political donations from public sector unions. In fact, their top 4 donors are various government unions. Many candidates go to union sponsored events, and pledge their support for union causes. If a candidate for office received a donation from a corporation, then after being elected, gave a lucrative no-bid contract to that corporation it would be called corruption. How is this situation any different?
Considering most government entities (other than federal) must balance their budgets every year, you would think that politicians would be restricted from offering paybacks to the unions. They can’t give what they don’t have, right? The problem with this argument is that the official has the ability to promise, and get passed into law, retirement and health benefits that will be paid for in the future. This takes away any current budgetary restraint that may exist, and puts us in the situation we find ourselves today all across the nation.
Our country is reaching a tipping point with all of the debts we have built up, and there needs to be a sober national conversation on these problems. Without market forces, and the taxpayer representatives beholden to the unions, what chance do we have? Nobody wants to talk about cutting pay or benefits, but the costs have simply gotten out of hand. The taxes that will need to be levied to support this kind of uncontrollable spending will hit all Americans. This issue is at the core of what kind of country, and opportunities we will pass on to our children.
A continued contract dispute between union workers and AT&T had employees walking off the job Tuesday and more are expected today in Reno.
More than 100 Reno-Sparks members of the Communications Workers of America/AFL-CIO participated in a work stoppage protest.
Communications Workers represents about 18,000 land-line technicians and call center representatives in Nevada, California and Hawaii.
Union members set up picket lines at AT&T buildings at 1450 Vassar St. and 1375 Capital Blvd. in Reno during the walkout that started Tuesday morning.
“We just want to bargain fairly,” said Jim Burrell, chapter president of Communications Workers of America Local 9413. “We want what is fair and that is maintaining what benefits we have.”
Most AT&T customers won’t notice a difference in service, said John Britton, director of corporate communication for AT&T. Installation requests might take longer to fulfill, though, because of the lack of technicians.
“We knew there was a possibility of a work stoppage, so we prepared for it,” he said.
Trained managers and vendors are installing and repairing phone lines.
The union contract expired in April. Talks have turned confrontational as several work stoppages have occurred in the months since negotiations began in February. Labor organizers also have accused AT&T of collective bargaining violations.
Union representatives said the biggest issues are health care and job security.
“The fact of the matter is that these employees are very well-compensated, and they’ll continue to be well-compensated,” Britton said.
Burrell said it is not about wages but about maintaining what union members already receive.
“We aren’t asking for increases,” he said.
“We are asking to maintain. We understand the economy’s health.”
AT&T doesn’t want to reduce any of its employee compensations, Britton said. The company’s goal is to preserve high-quality, middle-class jobs.
The work stoppage also includes employees in California, New York, New Jersey and states in New England.
On Monday, AT&T reached a tentative verbal agreement with the union’s Southeast district, which represents more than 22,000 members in nine states.
The Henderson City Council approved a two-year contract extension Tuesday for the police union, the last of five employee groups to make concessions and help reduce the city’s deficit.
“The fact that they were last was nothing more than a coincidence of timing,” said Fred Horvath, Henderson’s human resources director.
City officials had asked all employee groups to take at least 2 percent less each year for two years. All the groups agreed to do that, although they did so in different ways. “We ultimately had a pretty big mix of solutions,” Horvath said.
The police union’s contract extension will result in a net reduction of 2 percent, saving about $1.2 million over two years.
“Everybody is trying to work to solve the problem together, and that’s a huge contribution from the Henderson Police Officers’ Association,” City Manager Jacob Snow said.
The City Council voted Tuesday to extend the union’s collective bargaining agreement through June 30, 2014.
Henderson has about 340 police and corrections officers. They receive an average annual salary of nearly $78,000.
Under the new agreement, officers will receive no increase in base wages for two years. The union also agreed to a permanent requirement to bank all holidays that fall on a normal day off for future time off with pay.
In exchange for that permanent change, Horvath offered to make Christmas Eve a full-day holiday for officers, rather than a half-day holiday. Christmas Eve is a full-day holiday for all other city employees, except police supervisors.
Horvath praised the union’s leaders for persuading members to go along with the concessions, saying, “We really appreciate their willingness to work with us.”
In May, the City Council approved a $480 million budget for fiscal 2013, nearly 4 percent less than the previous year’s budget. Officials said then they would seek concessions from all employee groups to reduce a $13.5 million deficit.
Officials boast that Henderson has fared better than other local entities because it quickly addressed the economic downturn, which caused unprecedented declines in sales and property taxes, and because it has fostered strong relationships with its employee groups.
Henderson has about 1,800 full-time employees. Snow said concessions by the Teamsters, the firefighters, the police supervisors and police officers unions and nonrepresented employees will significantly reduce the city’s deficit. However, “there’s still a 6½ million-dollar deficit for next fiscal year that we’ve got to deal with.”
Laurie Skurka, Las Vegas
Monday, July 16, 2012 | 2:01 a.m.
We are a “union” family. My husband worked in the mining industry for 35 years. He started as a laborer, served in Vietnam, returned to work and became a surveyor, big machinery operator, and finally an electrician. His electrical apprenticeship was through IBEW. He went to work every day for 35 years. We raised three daughters and I stayed home part of that time. I returned to school to be a teacher.
We weren’t rolling in money. We had health insurance that allowed us access to preventive care, dental care and eye care. We buy American, support our community, our troops and our country, and we vote. I don’t feel entitled and credit hard work as my secret to a good life. Although we receive a small pension from those years, we both still work. Without the unions, would we be in this position? I don’t think so.
Contracts were approved by Nye County commissioners during a special video conference Monday with sheriff’s department employees and juvenile probation officers, but Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo had concerns how the agreements will be funded.
“The agreement was entered into after the budget was approved. The county’s budget did not take into consideration the increased augmentation of contractual increases, like their certifications and longevity. There were certain areas that were not taken into consideration when the budget was passed by the county,” DeMeo said.
The sheriff was referring to an incentive of 2 percent of base pay for employees in his department with an associate’s degree or 4 percent with a bachelor’s degree.
A deputy who receives an intermediate POST certificate receives 2 percent more, an advanced POST certificate earns 2 percent above that.
Deputies who are rangemasters, instructors, motorcycle deputies, SWAT team officers, mounted patrol, honor guard, detention transport drivers, bilingual, detectives, school resource officers, street crime unit or Nevada National Security Site receive an extra 4 percent in incentive pay.
Members of the Nye County Law Enforcement Association who are on call or standby will be entitled to receive 18 percent of their base pay, a provision DeMeo said is new in the contract.
Deputies won’t receive a cost-of-living adjustment during the two years of the agreement. The employees under the NCLEA agreement — deputy sheriffs, sergeants, sheriff’s investigators, district attorney investigators and justice court bailiffs — will be paid at the existing STEP and grade in the agreement that expired June 30, 2012.
A deputy without any incentive pay would receive $18.78 per hour at Step I and up to $26.73 at step 10. The intermediate POST certificate ups that pay to ranges from $19.16 to $27.27 per hour; the advanced POST pay is $19.54 to $27.81 per hour. A sergeant starts at a range of $21.96 per hour to $31.26 per hour; an advanced POST certificate would up that to anywhere from $22.85 to $32.53 per hour. A sergeant with a bachelor’s degree and an advanced POST certificate would make from $23.77 at step one, after one year, to $33.16 per hour at step 10, by the 10th year.
After employees reach their maximum STEP increases as of July 1, 2011, they will be awarded 24 hours of additional annual leave per year.
DeMeo told commissioners he heard of an employee who would be getting a $9,000 pay raise with the new contract. He didn’t elaborate.
District Attorney Brian Kunzi pointed out longevity pay would be awarded to deputies hired after Dec. 1, 1998 who completed at least eight years of continuous employment, but that pay wouldn’t be awarded until July 1, 2013. Longevity pay is already given to employees working before 1998.
The sheriff may be feeling some heat since the district attorney had previously threatened to file charges — if commissioners approve, of course — if the sheriff’s department continued to bust its budget in violation of state law. Those comments were made during a budget workshop in May. The public safety budget was exceeded by $771,700 in the 2010-11 fiscal year, according to audited figures.
A five-year proposed contract with union employees of the Regional Transportation Commission has onlookers scratching their heads, while the new head of Southern Nevada’s transit agency is singing the agreement’s praises.
“This is huge progress,” said Tina Quigley, who a month ago became general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.
Under terms of the proposed contract, RTC union employees will maintain merit and cost-of-living pay — though they will be calculated differently — and longevity pay, also changed, will remain.
The commission board will consider the contract this morning.
Comparing the proposal to other contracts, Carol Vilardo, head of the Nevada Taxpayers Alliance, who for decades has kept a close eye on local government budgets, said she found it “pretty unbelievable.”
“The RTC has increased bus fares, they’ve shortened hours on some routes, and given the concessions that have been acknowledged and made by other (unions). I find it difficult to believe a contract of that type would be entertained by the board.”
The Transportation Commission’s board is made up of representatives from Clark County, North Las Vegas, Henderson, Las Vegas, Mesquite and Boulder City.
Board Chairman Larry Brown, a county commissioner, could not be reached for comment.
Quigley said she was effusive about the new contract. She says it includes a first-time concession locally by the Service Employees International Union, the union to which transit employees belong. Union members do not include bus drivers and mechanics, who work for private companies that have contracts with the Transportation Commission.
“It’s the first time in this valley any SEIU bargaining agency has moved in regard to longevity,” Quigley said.
Terms of the proposed contract say existing employees will keep their longevity pay, which is equal to 0.57 of 1 percent of their salary. But the rate for new employees was reduced to 0.30 percent of 1 percent.
Longevity pay was devised years ago as a way to hire and keep new employees. Lately, though, unions have given it up, conceding that in the poor economy the benefit isn’t needed — no one is leaving a job because it’s so hard to find another one. read more…
Ken Hamm, Las Vegas
Friday, June 15, 2012 | 2 a.m.
How could a person running for the office of the president of the United States say we do not need more firefighters, more policemen and more teachers? Has he forgotten the sacrifice those police officers and firefighters made on 9/11? On that day they did what they were hired to do and more without regard for their own safety or how much they were getting paid. I believe these people do this every day. Everyone knows there is not a 9/11 every day, but there could be, and I appreciate them being there.
As for teachers, there is no more noble profession. We hinder them from using their ability to educate our children, then blame them when they fail. If these professionals are hindered from speaking up for themselves, then we, the people of this country, need to speak up for them.
They will have my support and those of the people I know and respect.