State workers demand that budget crisis not be put on backs of workers

CARSON CITY – On July 6 and 7, leaders of AFSCME Local 4041 met with representatives of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office to discuss solutions and savings ahead of the planned special legislative session to resolve budget shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic.   

According to AFSCME Local 4041, the Sisolak administration agreed to the meeting only after members mobilized to have their voice heard through petitions and rallies, and demanded to bargain and ultimately filed an Unfair Labor Practice claim against the state. 

Leaving these meetings with no agreement, AFSCME Local 4041 will continue to pursue the Unfair Labor Practice filed in June over the governor’s refusal to bargain over changes to state employees’ working conditions as allowed under the 2019 collective bargaining law.   

The following is a statement from Harry Schiffman, an electrician at UNLV and president of AFSCME Local 4041:  

We came in with our sleeves rolled up. We presented solutions that would generate savings for the state and also ideas to increase revenue. We took our responsibility to negotiate with the administration seriously. Unfortunately, they met with us only after cuts to state workers were already in place. 

Our communities have always been asked to pay more or make sacrifices, while corporations have enjoyed over $1.6 billion in subsidies over the past 10 years, including $60 million in 2019 alone. Last session, Governor Sisolak vetoed cuts to corporate subsidies.  

The current fiscal crisis requires shared sacrifice. Corporations receive subsidies, loopholes and deductions (particularly in mining) that, even if reduced by a fraction, could generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue for the state. The revenue is there. We ask the governor and legislature to stand up to corporate CEOs on behalf of hard-working Nevadans.   

AFSCME has partnered with states, cities and counties around the country to make government more efficient and cost-effective by improving state management span-of-control ratios, agreeing to hiring freezes and managing excess capacity to save money and generate funds.  

Governors in Michigan, Washington and Rhode Island have partnered with state workers and were able to take advantage of millions of dollars in federal CARES Act money and come up with balanced and fair solutions to their budget crises. Meanwhile, millions of CARES Act dollars for Nevada is being left on the table, as this funding becomes unavailable later this month.  

We know that times are tough, and sacrifices will have to be made. After years of cuts to state public services, we are reaching a breaking point where the quality of services and staff are at risk if the governor’s only solution is to make more cuts. I don’t know how we help our communities recover from this pandemic if we aren’t there to provide the services Nevadans need. 

Our proposals to the Sisolak administration include reinstating merit pay, a voluntary salary savings leave program and, if needed, a progressive salary savings leave plan as a last resort.  

State employees have continued to provide vital services to our communities throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis and are crucial to Nevada’s recovery.