State police union slams Lombardo for vote against bargaining agreement
State officials approved new collective bargaining agreements Wednesday for a handful of unions representing thousands of state workers, but funding for the approved pay raises — and retroactive pay raises approved last year — remains uncertain as it awaits legislative approval.
The union contracts, all but one approved through 2-1 votes by the Board of Examiners (Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo against and Attorney General Aaron Ford and Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar, both Democrats, in favor), reflect major budget proposals from Lombardo, including 8 percent raises in the upcoming fiscal year and 4 percent raises in the following year, along with $2,000 annual bonuses. But Lombardo’s votes against the agreements sparked a strong rebuke from the state police union.
In his explanation for his votes against the agreements — which had been in negotiations for months and signed off by each of the unions — Lombardo expressed concerns that certain provisions could exacerbate staffing issues tied to high vacancy rates in state government.
On his vote against the Nevada Police Union (NPU) agreement, Lombardo said he had “operational concerns for state executive departments,” and took issue with a provision in the contract that would increase the maximum special adjustment to pay — which can be received for assignments such as K-9 and critical incident response — from 10 percent of regular hourly pay to 15 percent.
“I do not agree with that increase, and subsequently, I will be voting no,” he said.
The police union, which represents state Highway Patrol troopers and other law enforcement, sharply criticized Lombardo for his vote against their collective bargaining agreement, which also included two-grade pay increases (typically amounting to a 10 percent raise), bonuses for certain education levels and increased leave. The union endorsed Lombardo over incumbent Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, ahead of the 2022 election.
“We are shocked and extremely disappointed by Gov. Lombardo’s vote against our agreement that seeks to raise critical funding for state police,” NPU President Dan Gordon said in a statement released Wednesday. ”Simply put, our members feel betrayed.”
Under the state’s budgeting process, these new agreements can only be funded by the Legislature and would have to be signed off by Lombardo, who has sought to rectify differences in pay between nonunion and union workers, who negotiated greater pay raises during the 2021 legislative session. For the upcoming fiscal year, he’s proposed 10 percent raises for employees not represented by a union, up 2 percentage points from what he’s proposed for nonunion workers — a move that would, in effect, bring pay for the sides in line with one another.
A spokeswoman for the governor said in a statement after the meeting that Lombardo remains committed to the raises and bonuses he has proposed for public safety employees and that “the Office of the Governor will be submitting bill draft requests to implement the agreements approved this morning.”
Democratic and Republican lawmakers have already clashed over plans for increasing state employee compensation, with legislative Democrats backing some proposals not included in the governor’s plans, including an additional 2 percent raise for state workers for April to June and a bill (AB498) that would cut employees’ contributions to the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) in half.
Gordon said the only action NPU has seen to address the high vacancy rates among the state’s police force “is the passage of SB440 by Senate Democrats,” a bill that would grant NPU members a set of arbitration awards approved by the Board of Examiners in 2022. That bill is still pending in the Assembly after passing the Senate in early April, a delay legislative Democrats blamed on Lombardo.
“Astonishingly, not a single Senate Republican voted for SB440 that funds the police,” Gordon said. “Meanwhile, more-and-more officers leave the state and we can no longer provide 24/7 coverage. For a safer Nevada, both NPU agreements and an adjustment to PERS contributions should be supported unanimously and funded immediately. Anything less will be insufficient and a detriment to the state police workforce.”
The NPU also expressed support on social media for AB498, the bill decreasing employees’ contributions to PERS, which have eaten into take home pay in recent years even as salaries have risen.
SB440 would also grant AFSCME, which represents three bargaining units of several thousand state employees, including custodial employees and health care workers, arbitration awards approved last year. And like the NPU contract, the Board of Examiners voted 2-1 (with Lombardo against, citing a provision that would double personal leave days from two to four), to approve AFSCME’s bargaining agreement for the 2024 and 2025 fiscal years.
Harry Schiffman, president of AFSCME Local 4041, lauded the approval of the agreement in a statement to The Nevada Independent.
“With this CBA, AFSCME members are raising standards for state employment that will improve the vital services our communities need,” he said. “We will continue working with Nevada legislators to address the chronic understaffing all state agencies face, and fighting for solutions that include reinstating longevity pay, implementing paid family leave, reducing employee PERS contributions and funding the 3 percent wage increase won by AFSCME members in arbitration.”
The only agreement passed unanimously was for the Battle Born Firefighters Association, a union representing state-employed firefighters.
Updated: 5/17/23 at 2:39 p.m. — This story was updated to include a statement from AFSCME.
Updated: 5/17/23 at 3:19 p.m. — This story was updated to include a statement from a Lombardo spokesperson.
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