Las Vegas Sun

August 4, 2015

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Clark County, unions appeal ruling against union labor requirement

Clark County and Las Vegas construction unions are asking the Nevada Supreme Court to uphold their deal requiring that union labor be used on work to renovate the county jail in downtown Las Vegas.

Clark County District Court Judge Jerry Wiese on Aug. 17 ruled in favor of nonunion contractors in rejecting the Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the $17.3 million first phase of renovations for the Clark County Detention center.

Wiese ruled the arrangement involving tax dollars "promotes favoritism and favors union workers and contractors over non-union workers and contractors."

Advocates of Project Labor Agreements say the deals are good for taxpayers as unions agree not to strike during construction, a concession that enables builders to meet project deadlines.

Wiese’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed against the county by Citizen Outreach Inc., dba as Nevada Business Coalition.

They sued the county April 8, charging nonunion contractors were unfairly disqualified from bidding for the work because of the union-labor requirement.

In a short court filing Tuesday, Clark County District Attorney David Roger’s office and the Southern Nevada Building & Construction Trades Council said they’re appealing Wiese’s ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Attorneys for the unions have said that besides blocking strikes, the Project Labor Agreement would "effectively coordinate the various trades that will work on the project and realize efficiencies that will save taxpayers money – such as the requirement that all contractors have access to state-registered apprentices, whom can be paid at lower prevailing wage rates."

The unions have also argued the Project Labor Agreement wasn’t anti-competitive as bidding was so robust for the job that the low bid came in more than $9 million below estimates.

"More nonunion general contractors than union ones submitted bids after the PLA was included, and of the four final general contractors selected, one was fully nonunion, two were largely nonunion in their overall operations and only one was fully union," the unions said in a court filing last month. "This is fully consistent with the experience with other PLAs on Southern Nevada construction projects."

Wiese, however, found provisions allowing nonunion contractors to keep just seven core employees and hire the rest from union halls seem "to put nonunion workers at a disadvantage."

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