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News Analysis
Nevada workers increasingly shun unions

Labor brass, political allies respond with laws to tilt playing field


By Steven Miller

Employees in the Silver State increasingly want no part of unions. That’s the clear message of the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

But Big Labor has a plan: Go around Nevada workers, using government. Get new laws imposed on the state so that workers have less say in whether their work sites become union-controlled.

The figures on union density in Nevada come from the BLS Current Population Survey, available on the Web at http://www.unionstats.com. Figures posted there reveal that the unionized percentage of the Nevada workforce has declined by 37 percent in just the last 5 years.

According to the BLS, in 1999 a bit less than 20 percent of Nevada workers, 19.7 percent, were union members. As of 2004, however, the percentage was down to 12.5.

The union strategy surfaced first in last year’s minimum wage initiative, and then re-surfaced this year in several pieces of union-backed legislation. In the minimum wage proposal—both in the fine print of the initiative version and Assembly Bill 87 in the 2005 legislature—an odd, rarely discussed provision would effectively give union bosses governmental powers by allowing them to exempt companies that play ball from laws and regulations that other, non-union businesses would have to obey.

Section 2, paragraph 4 of AB 87 says that while the “provisions of this section may not be waived by agreement between an individual employee and an employer” … “All or any part of the provisions of this section may be waived in a bona fide collective bargaining agreement….” (Emphasis added.)

In other words, if a business owner facilitates the organizing of a worksite or his entire company—say, by allowing union brass to evade a secret-ballot vote by workers and use the intimidating, no-holds-barred “card count” process—union brass can agree in the collective bargaining agreement to exempt the worksite or business from state minimum wage law provisions.

Clearly, in this kind of arrangement, workers are the odd man out. Indeed, in New York and elsewhere, the new partner of Nevada’s Culinary union, the UNITE needletrades union, has a long history of selling out workers for actually illegal sub-minimum-wage salaries, in exchange for pay-offs from hard-pressed and/or unethical businesses. At the same time the union—continuing its long affiliation with the Columbo and Luchese crime families—continues to enforce collection of union members’ stiff dues. (For further details, see Culinary’s Sinister New Partner, a brief report last fall by NPRI. Or read labor consultant’s Robert Fitch’s 1998 statement and testimony before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the U.S. Congress.)

Another attempt by Big Labor to use the 2005 Nevada Legislature to circumvent the resistance of Silver State workers has been Assembly Bill 69, which, until amended in the last few days, would have forced workers to effectively pay dues (called "fees") to the very unions that they choose not to join. (See the discussion of AB 69 under 73rd Session Legislative Stinkers.)

Charts by NPRI. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics