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Policy group pushes back on union’s labor complaint over salary freeze, furlough days

People play blackjack at the reopening of the Bellagio hotel and casino Thursday, June 4, 2020, in Las Vegas. Casinos in Nevada were allowed to reopen on Thursday for the first time after temporary closures as a precaution against the coronavirus.

(The Center Square) – The Nevada Policy Research Institute is criticizing an unfair labor practice complaint filed against Gov. Steve Sisolak over a public employee pay freeze.

The union, AFSCME Local 4041, claims Sisolak did not follow the state’s new collective bargaining laws before instituting work reductions for state employees in response to the coronavirus crisis and its resulting budget shortfall. Last month, Sisolak revealed that he would freeze merit increases and furlough state workers one day a month.

“Gov. Sisolak’s proposal is woefully inadequate, given that personnel costs make up the majority of each agency’s budget and the state is facing a truly massive budget shortfall,” Michael Schaus, communications director for Nevada Policy Research Institute, told The Center Square.

The goals of the union, to keep as many state workers employed as possible and avoid mass layoffs or pay cuts, seem insensitive at a time when nearly 30 percent of private-sector workers have filed for unemployment benefits in Nevada during the pandemic.

“When struggling taxpayers – a record number of whom are suddenly out of a job – are being asked to pay more in taxes merely so politically powerful unions can protect taxpayer-funded employees, it’s clear that the priorities of politicians are not aligned with the average Nevadan,” Schaus said.

The union spent millions of dollars in 2018 promoting Sisolak and other Democratic candidates who were in favor of collective bargaining for state government workers.

In fiscal year 2021, Nevada faces a $1.3 billion budget shortfall because of coronavirus restrictions and and their hit on gaming, sales and income taxes.

“If AFSCME was truly interested in protecting government’s ability to deliver core services without interruption, one measure it could take would be a [freeze] in all raises or cost of living increases across the board,” Schaus said. “If they want to protect as many government jobs as possible, they simply must find a way to make doing so financially feasible, without relying on hiking the taxes of Nevadans who are facing one of the worst economic challenges in our state’s history.”

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